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Newspaper kiosks are going through hard times not only in Saratov but also in Baku, Tbilisi and Kiev

The future of newspaper kiosks in Russia (with the exception of Moscow and St. Petersburg) does not look good. All throughout the country, from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad, the newspaper kiosks are being demolished. Recently, Saratov mayor, Mr. Grishchenko, has terminated all contracts with "Rospechat" (the major retail distributor of newspapers, magazines and books).


The press distribution system of the city will be destroyed. 11 newspaper kiosks have already been eliminated. This will result in   the company losing money, paying less taxes as well as possibly laying off 200 employees. The Saratov branch of the Journalist Union of Russia issued a statement: demolition of newspaper kiosks will make it harder for the residents to access the print media which in turn violates their rights; with the presidential elections around the corner, the information available to citizens is being censored, independent mass media and journalists are being pressured.

Very similar things are happening in a number of capitals in the former Soviet Union Republics. In 2011, local authorities in Baku, Tbilisi and Kiev virtually simultaneously started demolishing popular newspaper kiosks despite the fact that European authorities are doing the opposite. They are implementing special economic measures to support mass media outlets and press distribution to offset the impact of decline in readership especially among young people. European Parliament even recommended EU member to charge no VAT on print and electronic media to support the media industry!


Why are the authorities trying to get rid of newspaper kiosks? In my opinion, there are two things at work. First of all, newspaper kiosks are not a good source of bribes, protection payments, etc unlike shawarma or beer ones. Secondly, big retail stores do not need additional competition. Kiosks are making it harder for the big retail stores to lure in customers and increase their sales on average. I believe that the demolition of newspaper kiosks in different parts of Russia is often due to these two forces working together.


In my opinion, the number of newspaper kiosks should be increasing not decreasing. The authorities should be protecting the newspaper kiosks and making their transformation into a modern multimedia information centers possible. Tax breaks, rent subsidies, direct subsidies, etc should be implemented. Unfortunately, there is never any real support for small businesses in our country. Annual budget allocation for the needs of small businesses is 20 billion rubles. Nobody knows where this money disappears to though...


All throughout last year media industry representatives have made numerous propositions to the President, Government and the Federal Assembly of Russian Federation on how to support the industry through tax and customs duty breaks, reduced subscription for young people, etc. However, nothing was done. So the real question is: how can we get the attention of authorities? They pay attention to us neither in the capital, nor in the regions.