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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Published: February 12, 2014 (Issue # 1797)


Theauthorities have effectively prohibited theDozhd television channel frombroadcasting oncable television. Theostensible reason forthe ban was asurvey that Dozhd conducted onJan. 26 that asked: Should theSoviet Union have surrendered Leningrad tosave hundreds ofthousands oflives?

That ill-conceived andinappropriate question sparked apublic defamation campaign similar tothose during Stalinist purges. But thesurvey was really only apretext. Theauthorities displeasure with Dozhd probably began two months ago when thechannel aired aprogram byanti-corruption whistleblowerAlexei Navalnyregarding luxurious dachas owned byhigh-ranking officials, including presidential administration First Deputy Chief ofStaff Vyacheslav VolodinandDeputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.

Volodin was reportedly livid over theprogram andconvened aspecial meeting ofthe presidential administration todiscuss thematter. Even though Navalny produced theprogram, not Dozhd, it was important togo after themessenger so that there would be no more ofthese reports incriminating top officials.

Dozhd cannot survive financially without access tothe cable networks andtheir viewership of17 million households.

Does this mean that private broadcasters will simply cancel commercial contracts as amatter ofpolicy?

These operators are not as private as you might think. Although private owners ostensibly control thecompanies that broadcast thesignal tothe cable networks, thegovernment exerts direct control over them. Forexample, billionaireViktor Vekselbergowns theAkado cable provider andbillionaireMikhail Fridmanowns Beeline. Andwhen thetruly independent ER-Telecom cable provider attempted tobuy Akado, thedeal fell through after it was nixed bysenior government officials.

Actually, thetroubles forDozhd began during theanti-government protests onBolotnaya Ploshchad. Theauthorities applied agreat deal ofpressure onthe channel, andmedia tycoonAlisher Usmanovstepped infor thekill with abuyout offer. But Dozhd CEO Natalya Sindeyeva andher business partners were strong enough tofend off theaggressive takeover bid.

That prompted theauthorities tochange tactics. They understood that it was easier todismantle thechannel than tobuy it out. Mikhail Lesin, theformer head ofthe government agency overseeing themedia who was linked tothe state takeover ofNTV in2001, reportedly masterminded theattack onDozhd.

TheKremlins strategy tomonopolize themedia market consists ofseveral main decisions: appointing Lesin toheadGazpromMedia inOctober, dismantling RIA Novosti andcreating Rossia Segodnya inits place with theodious Dmitry Kiselyov atits head inDecember, pushing Pavel Durov out ofVkontakte andnow theattack onDozhd. Thegoal is toerect ahuge media wall toprotect theauthorities andisolate Russia fromthe free world. They are building that wall slowly but steadily.

Thefate awaiting Dozhd is clear enough. It will be bought out probably bythe very same Usmanov who tried unsuccessfully toseize it earlier. Only now, with Dozhd barred fromairing oncable networks, it is practically worthless. But bypushing theprice down tonext tonothing, it will make it easier andcheaper forthe Kremlin andits frontman toeliminate thechannel.

Yulia Latynina hosts apolitical talk show onEkho Moskvy radio.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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