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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, Oct. 2


The celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Mikhail Lermontov continues with todays free exhibition in the citys Lermontov Library at 19 Liteiny Prospekt. Titled Under the Rustling Wings, the temporary exhibition will feature the costumes and scenery used in the 1917 production of Lermontovs play The Masquerade, which he wrote in 1835 when he was only 21 years old.



Friday, Oct. 3


Learn more about how to manage and evaluate employee performance during SPIBAs Human Resources Committee meeting this morning on Employee Assessment: Global and Local Trends. Starting at 9:30 a.m., the discussion will touch on such topics as the partnership between HR and business, reliable assessment strategies and more, with Tatiana Andrianova, the head of the SHL Russia and CIS branch in St. Petersburg, as the featured guest. Confirm your participation by Oct. 2 by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.


AmChams Procurement Committee Meeting is at 9 a.m. this morning in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.



Saturday, Oct. 4


Wine and cheese lovers will get their chance to revel during Scandinavia Country Club and Spas Wine Market Weekend. Going on today and tomorrow, wining diners can listen to live music, take part in culinary classes and, of course, sample a variety of fine wines from around the world. The cost of admission is 400 rubles ($10.30) for adults and 200 rubles ($5.15) for children.



Sunday, Oct. 5


Look for the latest fall fashions at the Autumn Market today in Freedom Anticafe at 7 Kazanskaya Ulitsa. The minimarket plans to offer clothes more flattering than the puffy jackets that are a staple of the citys cold-weather fashion, while offering the same amount of protection from the biting winds blowing off of the Baltic.



Monday, Oct. 6


SKA St. Petersburg, the citys KHL affiliate, welcomes Slovakian club HC Slovan in a match-up tonight at the Ice Palace near the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be purchased on the clubs website or in person at either the arenas box office or the clubs merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Oct. 7


Learn more about Russias energy industry at the St. Petersburg Energy Forum that begins today and runs through Oct. 10. Attracting industry experts and political and business representatives, the forum plans to welcome more than 350 plus companies and their representatives to discuss the future of Russias largest economic sector.



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