Julian Assange to Host TV Show in Russia

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Lisa Mullins: A different brand of TV host is getting ready for his debut on a Russian TV channel. He is Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy site Wiki Leaks. His new TV show is announced this week on Russia's state run English language TV station RT.

TV announcer: Julian Assange's exclusive series will premiere here in March, and the world's media" ¦

Mullins: Now RT doesn't air on regular Russian television. It's aimed at international audiences. It can be seen on some cable systems here in United States. But RT is also known for consistently taking an anti-American stance. Anne Cooper is a professor at Columbia Journalism School and a veteran reporter on Russian affairs. First off, Julian Assange, how is he going to fit in with what RT does already? In other words, what does he add to their values aside from a big name?

Ann Cooper: Well, he adds a big name and he will fit in very well. I believe RT was created by the Russian government in 2005 because of its long time complaint that western media relentlessly portray Russia in a bad light. And so their solution, one of their solutions was to create a state funded channel, try to get it out there internationally delivered by satellite feeds, that is relentlessly negative in its coverage of the west and in particular the US. So Julian Assange with his message that is often highly critical of the west and the US, I think he's found a very comfortable home in RT.

Mullins: Is he going to be a journalist, a commentator, or what?

Cooper: He'll be an interviewer. So, you know, in that sense he might be like Vlad Posner of Russian TV or Piers Morgan on CNN, but of course he'll be Julian Asange, and he'll bring his own special take to the interview process.

Mullins: Now, does that mean that he will push Julian Assange agenda, Russia today agenda, or do the two overlap?

Cooper: I think they certainly have some overlaps. Russia Today which shortened its name to just RT sometime ago, actually when you watch it, it looks very good. They have terrific looking sets. They've poured a lot of resources, millions of dollars into this production. And a lot of what you see on RT is professional, it's journalistic. Last year they covered the Arab Spring pretty well. But as soon as you get on to the US or some other western versus eastern or western versus Russia issue then that's when the propaganda guns come out.

Mullins: I wonder if you can listen along with us now to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who told Congress just last year that the United States in her view is losing the information war to stations such as RT and others.

Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera is winning. The Chinese have opened up, a global English language and multilanguage television network. The Russians have opened up, an English language network. I've seen it in a few countries and it's quite instructive.

Mullins: To what extent does the US have some kind of risk by losing as at least Hillary Clinton says the information war? I mean is RT winning? Is Al Jazeera winning? And if so, what does that mean?

Cooper: That's such a good question. And it was kind of surprising to hear Hillary make such a strong statement. She went on in that statement to say that these global networks are changing people's minds and attitudes whether we like it or not. I'm not sure how much they're changing people's minds and attitudes. They certainly could be. They're widely available. RT says that they're available to 200 million viewers on five continents. We used to have three networks that we could watch here. And then we had CNN, and now there are more cable channels, and now you have a rival of all these satellite channels from different countries that are state funded. And they do some good things. Some of their coverage is very interesting and different from what we're getting on say Network TV in the US. But, you know, it's kind of a buyer beware market. You've got to watch for a while and figure out what am I getting here and what do I really want to see.

Mullins: Ann Cooper is broadcast director at the Columbia Journalism School. Very nice to talk to you. Thank you.

Cooper: Thank you.