Russia's Oppositionist TV Network Faces Shutdown

3:26 AM PST 03/05/2014 by Vladimir Kozlov
Vladimir Putin at a meeting with Russian filmmakers in 2013.

Dozhd, the only alternative voice in a Russian TV space dominated by Putin-controlled networks, has lost 80 percent of its revenue since running afoul of authorities in January.

The Russian oppositionist TV network Dozhd, which came under attack earlier this year following a controversial opinion poll it conducted, could shut down by April, according to its general director.

“We are likely to close down in a month,” Natalia Sindeyeva, Dozhd's general director, was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency Interfax.  She added that the station is going to discuss salary cuts with staff, which could help the station to operate for another 30 days.

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Dozhd's troubles began in January when the station ran a WWII-related opinion poll on its web site, which conservative groups alleged insulted veterans. Although the poll was promptly removed, all leading Russian pay-TV companies used it as a pretext to cut Dozhd off. The station's owners, however, said that the true reason was Dozhd's oppositionist stance towards the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dozhd is the only opposition TV network in a field dominated by Putin-controlled state networks. 

According to Sindeyeva, the station's core viewers have offered support by subscribing an online-only version, following the major Russian pay TV operators' move to remove the network from subscription plans. But a fee of $30 (1,000 rubles) per year, which the station charges for online access to all of its content, is insufficient to maintain operations, the network says.

“Without commercials and distribution fees, which we lost -- 80 percent of our revenue -- we can't survive,” Sindeyeva said.

Currently, the station is available only online and through a handful of smaller pay TV operators.

Meanwhile, the Russian anti-monopoly FAS said that it saw no sign of collusion in Russian pay-TV operators' move to simultaneously turn Dozhd off.

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