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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.





 


Times Talk

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.