Arab Today, arab today soviet media giant sacked as itartass boss
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Soviet media giant sacked as ITAR-TASS boss

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Arab Today, arab today Soviet media giant sacked as ITAR-TASS boss

Moscow - AFP

Russia\'s venerable ITAR-TASS news agency fired one of its Soviet-era giants as general director on Monday after nearly four decades of service that began at the very height of the Cold War. The Russian government said Vitaly Ignatenko -- a smooth-talking prototype of communist apparatchik who later headed the press office of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev -- was being moved to a newly-created position at the agency. It did not explain either the dismissal or the decision to replace him with Sergei Mikhailov -- a 41-year-old mover and shaker in the public relations world who handled the media for the government\'s vast Russian Railways state monopoly. But Russia\'s Kommersant business daily said that Ignatenko\'s sacking had been promised by Russia\'s deputy communications minister upon his appointment in July. The government was reported to be unhappy with the storied agency\'s inability to come to grips with a new media world of instant communications through social networks and mobile services that it completely lacked. ITAR-TASS had no rivals and was viewed as the oracle of the Soviet Union\'s supreme leader at the time of the 71-year-old Ignatenko\'s appointment as deputy general director in 1975. The agency was then known simply as Tass and recognised as one of the most powerful media sources in the world. Its web of gray-suited reporters spanned the globe and directors had the status of the country\'s most powerful men. Ignatenko\'s career perfectly exemplified how the Soviet authorities viewed the media as a treasured source of propaganda for wielding against the imperial West. He had one office in the futuristic cube Moscow headquarters of Tass and another at the international information department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. It was an agency that bred spies for a living and he worked there as a deputy as well -- a position that kept him out of the direct line of the most immediate fire of domestic political intrigues. Ignatenko then managed to survive a rapid 1980s succession of ancient leaders and build a bond with Gorbachev that lasted well past his dramatic ouster as the Soviet Union\'s first and last elected executive president. His remarkable longevity extended deep into the 1990s with brief appointments to the government and even state television. Ignatenko preached an almost blind allegiance to the authorities through it all that eventually made ITAR-TASS lose its edge and under threat as clients preferred its private rivals instead. The agency is now believed to be struggling financially and at risk of having its reputation eclipsed by fellow state news provider RIA Novosti and the privately-owned Interfax. Its re-emergence will be laid on the shoulders of a man who helped create Russia\'s first public relations heavyweight that still works closely with the government and partners with New York\'s global giant Burson-Marsteller. Mikhailov and Partners was only the start for the cigar-wielding star of Russia\'s glitzy world of the super-rich and extremely-well connected. He served as an adviser to President Vladimir Putin in 2004-2005 before being appointed to his rail post the subsequent year. Mikhailov was also ranked as the best manager of Russia\'s PR world by an industry association in 2011. His most recent awards included a medal from the Kremlin for his work on \"developing railroads\". Russian Railways has been running a massive advertising campaign in major Western media since last year.

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