Rain TV, Russia’s only independent channel, set to close

Rain TV, Russia's only independent channel, set to close
Rain TV owners Natalia Sindeyeva and Alexander Vinokurov

5 March 2014

Russia’s beleaguered independent news channel Rain TV will close in less than two months, according to its chief executive officer Natalia Sindeyeva. “We have about a month to live,” said Sindeyeva at the Kremlin’s human rights council on Tuesday. “Without a budget from advertisements and without the money from distribution that we’ve lost — and we’ve lost 80% of our income — we would never survive.”

The channel’s funding has taken a hit in recent weeks after major cable operators dropped Rain TV from their packages following a controversial poll. The poll, published on the Rain TV website, asked whether Leningrad (now St Petersburg) should have been surrendered to the Nazis in order to save hundreds and thousands of lives. The poll was taken down after just minutes following a public backlash from bloggers, politicians and other public figures who accused Rain TV of desecrating the memory of the Great Patriotic War, the Russian name for the Second World War.

Rain TV management has since claimed the channel was a victim of a wider campaign to silence all independent Russian media. The past few months have seen dramatic changes in the Russian media landscape. In December, the Kremlin announced plans to shut down news agency RIA Novosti, which despite being state-owned has a reputation for independent and balanced reporting including on sensitive issues such as the anti-government protests. Last month, Yuri Fedutinov, the general director of Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow), Russia’s oldest and most prominent liberal radio station, was removed from his post and replaced with a state media official.

In a more promising turn of events, the station’s editor-in-chief was re-elected to his post on Monday with an overwhelming number of votes in his favour from fellow journalists who own a stake in the company. A total of 72 journalists voted for Alexei Venediktov’s re-election, while four voted against and three abstained. The result now needs to be approved by Gazprom Media, whose board members, who are close to the Kremlin, are set to decide by 17 March. In an interview with privately owned news agency Interfax, Venediktov has said he believes in the integrity of the radio stations. He said: “We are journalists. We will work in the traditional genre of journalism, where each piece of news is verified.”