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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Published: February 12, 2014 (Issue # 1797)

Theáauthorities have effectively prohibited theáDozhd television channel fromábroadcasting onácable television. Theáostensible reason foráthe ban was aásurvey that Dozhd conducted onáJan. 26 that asked: ôShould theáSoviet Union have surrendered Leningrad toásave hundreds ofáthousands ofálives?ö

That ill-conceived andáinappropriate question sparked aápublic defamation campaign similar toáthose during Stalinist purges. But theásurvey was really only aápretext. Theáauthoritiesĺ displeasure with Dozhd probably began two months ago when theáchannel aired aáprogram byáanti-corruption whistlebloweráAlexei Navalnyáregarding luxurious dachas owned byáhigh-ranking officials, including presidential administration First Deputy Chief ofáStaff Vyacheslav VolodináandáDeputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.

Volodin was reportedly livid over theáprogram andáconvened aáspecial meeting ofáthe presidential administration toádiscuss theámatter. Even though Navalny produced theáprogram, not Dozhd, it was important toágo after theámessenger so that there would be no more ofáthese reports incriminating top officials.

Dozhd cannot survive financially without access toáthe cable networks andátheir viewership ofá17 million households.

Does this mean that private broadcasters will simply cancel commercial contracts as aámatter ofápolicy?

These operators are not as ôprivateö as you might think. Although private owners ostensibly control theácompanies that broadcast theásignal toáthe cable networks, theágovernment exerts direct control over them. Foráexample, billionaireáViktor Vekselbergáowns theáAkado cable provider andábillionaireáMikhail Fridmanáowns Beeline. Andáwhen theátruly independent ER-Telecom cable provider attempted toábuy Akado, theádeal fell through after it was nixed byásenior government officials.

Actually, theátroubles foráDozhd began during theáanti-government protests onáBolotnaya Ploshchad. Theáauthorities applied aágreat deal ofápressure onáthe channel, andámedia tycoonáAlisher Usmanovástepped ináfor theákill with aábuyout offer. But Dozhd CEO Natalya Sindeyeva andáher business partners were strong enough toáfend off theáaggressive takeover bid.

That prompted theáauthorities toáchange tactics. They understood that it was easier toádismantle theáchannel than toábuy it out. Mikhail Lesin, theáformer head ofáthe government agency overseeing theámedia who was linked toáthe state takeover ofáNTV iná2001, reportedly masterminded theáattack onáDozhd.

TheáKremlinĺs strategy toámonopolize theámedia market consists ofáseveral main decisions: appointing Lesin toáheadáGazpromáMedia ináOctober, dismantling RIA Novosti andácreating Rossia Segodnya ináits place with theáodious Dmitry Kiselyov atáits head ináDecember, pushing Pavel Durov out ofáVkontakte andánow theáattack onáDozhd. Theágoal is toáerect aáhuge media wall toáprotect theáauthorities andáisolate Russia fromáthe free world. They are building that wall slowly but steadily.

Theáfate awaiting Dozhd is clear enough. It will be bought outጠprobably byáthe very same Usmanov who tried unsuccessfully toáseize it earlier. Only now, with Dozhd barred fromáairing onácable networks, it is practically worthless. But byápushing theáprice down toánext toánothing, it will make it easierጠandácheaperጠforáthe Kremlin andáits frontman toáeliminate theáchannel.

Yulia Latynina hosts aápolitical talk show onáEkho Moskvy radio.



Friday, Aug. 29

Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.

Saturday, Aug. 30

Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in ôDownton Abbeyö if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).

Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.

Sunday, Aug. 31

The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russiaĺs best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.

Monday, Sept. 1

Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russiaĺs most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkinĺs, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovĺs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systemĺs website for more details.

Tuesday, Sept. 2

Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubĺs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.

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