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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, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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