Independent media crucial to democracy, Rice says

WASHINGTON — The National Assn. of Broadcasters and the Newspaper Assn. of America briefed President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Friday about recent meetings between U.S. and Russian media execs, part of a new initiative to promote a free press in Russia.

The Russian-American Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue (Ramed) evolved last fall from talks between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The group has traveled twice to Russia, while Russian media toppers attended NAB’s confab in Las Vegas, as well as the annual meeting of the newspaper trade org.

“A strong, free, economically independent media is critical to Russia’s efforts to build its democracy,” Rice said. “We applaud Ramed’s success in starting a conversation between media professionals in both our countries about the best strategies for reaching that goal. The United States is grateful that the NAB and the NAA will be continuing this important work.”

In May, NAB prexy-CEO Eddie Fritts was part of the Ramed delegation making the trip to Moscow. There, MediaNews Group vice chair William Dean Singleton said U.S. newspaper companies would commit $50 million to an investment fund for Russian media, once an independent economic model is established.

“NAB is honored that the Bush administration asked us, along with the NAA, to take a lead in this important initiative,” Fritts said after Friday’s meeting at the White House.

“The U.S. broadcasting model is recognized around the world as one to be emulated. We are confident that these meetings are leading to developing a strong and prosperous Russian broadcasting system,” Fritts said.

NAB has helped Russian broadcasters establish trade orgs repping both private and public broadcasters.

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