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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

Thursday, July 24


Liliana Modiliani, a well-known Russian stylist, will talk about choosing clothes that fit during her lecture at 7 p.m. at the Pryamoy Efir art club, 13 Viborgskoe Shosse.



Friday, July 25


Discuss Russias economic and political prospects for 2014 during a Business Breakfast organized by SPIBA at 9.30 a.m. in the Bank Saint-Petersburg office at 64


Malookhtinsky Prospekt.


Start your weekend with adorable miniature pigs at the Squealing Pig festival at 7 p.m. this evening in the Karl & Friedrich restaurant, 15 Iozhnaya doroga, on Krestovsky Island.



Saturday, July 26


Hundreds of brand-new and retro cars, drag and drift shows, test drives and karting are planned for the Avtobum-2014 festival, which will take place in front of the RIO shopping center at 2 Fuchika Ulitsa.


Participants in todays SaniDay Summer competition will impress visitors with their hand-made, unusual and hilarious boats, which will race at the Igora Resort near the 54th kilometer on Priozerskoe Shosse.


Metro Family Day will include both serious lectures for adults and master-classes for children, making the event interesting for the whole family. To participate, come to Kirov Park on Yelagin Island.


Photography will be the focus of todays Photosubbota, which features lectures by famous photographers, meetings with photo schools and studio representatives, and participation in a photography competition. The event starts at noon at Petrokongress, 5 Lodeynopolskaya Ulitsa.


If you like cycling, make sure to visit the Za Velogorod Festival with its retro bike exhibition, market and live music. The second round of the Leningrad Criterium race will also take place during the event at Petrovsky Arsenal in Sestroretsk.



Sunday, July 27


Navy Day will be celebrated with a weapon and military transportation exhibition, self-defense master classes and concerts. The event starts at 1 p.m. in the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburg.



Monday, July 28


Dont miss a chance to see the latest achievements in robotics during the RoboDom interactive show, exhibiting more than 150 robots. The show will be at BUM center, 22/2 Gzhatskaya Ulitsa, until Aug. 3. The entrance ticket costs 350 rubles ($10).



Tuesday, July 29


A video of a Queen concert from 1986 will be shown today at 8 p.m. in Yaschik, 50/13 Ligovsky Prospekt.



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