Russian government regulators are threatening to shut down TV Rain because of fallout from an “blasphemous” poll, run by the channel this past Sunday. TV Rain is Russia’s only independent TV station, and many are skeptical that a TV station may be shut down entirely because of a single segment of one show. –Ed.
Pripachkin believes that TV Rain’s cable broadcasting must be shut down because of a poll timed to the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the Leningrad Blockade. In an interview with Snob.ru, Pripachkin recounted that he began considering this when some cable TV subscribers cancelled their subscription to TV Rain due to the poll.
This past Sunday, January 26th, TV Rain ran a poll on the topic of the blockade. The question asked on the air sounded like this: “Should Leningrad have surrendered in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives?” The TV channel was criticized by political, cultural and civic figures for this. Afterward, TV Rain removed the poll from its web site and apologized to those who could have been offended by the “inappropriate question.”
Yury Pripachkin, President of the Association of Cable TV of Russia
After TV Rain’s poll, there was an avalanche of calls from the subscription services of the cable operators – people asked that they be shut down. For a cable operator, a fall in the subscription base is a loss. TV Rain is in a bundle with other channels, and when the subscriber protests, then he cancels the whole bundle – why should the operator lose the other channels because of that?
TV Rain’s second problem is related to its economic model, which has been repeatedly discussed, but MTS turned off TV Rain due to this back in October – they use the contract with the operator to promote themselves as a channel, and then begin to sell themselves on the Internet as paid access to content. The cable operator doesn’t receive any revenue, but is forced to broadcast the channel, and TV Rain collects funds on the Internet, bypassing the cable operators, which the cable guys don’t like – and that is quite natural.
TV Rain’s problem was discussed at a meeting of the association not as an individual case, but as an example of the problem of unregulated relations. The government does not play any role in the question of mutual relations between the operator and the channel; they are strictly commercial in nature. Reviewing the example of the story with TV Rain, we wanted to start talking about a system of mutual relations and about how to properly regulate them, because the regulatory role of the government in certain elements is important.
Natalya Sindeyeva, founder of TV Rain Optimistic Channel
I am very, very strong… And in the course of four years, I have never cried, no matter what happened. Yury Pripachkin (“Akado” at that time) shut us off at the very start of our work on the basis of a phone call from Vladislav Surkov [the Kremlin official then in charge of ideology and media control]. I was accused of being in a conspiracy with the State Department, then the Kremlin, then the devil knows what. Our advertisers were withdrawn and we were threatened with ruination of our business, and much else that was unpleasant. But I already had the strength not to succumb to panic, to reinforce my resolve, and come into the channel with a smile on my face, and to keep working. I got the guys together and said that together we will solve any difficulties, and we simply must honestly do our job. And we’ve done it, sometimes making mistakes, sometimes unprofessionally, but always honestly. And today, I didn’t go to work, and I’m crying… And I am very hurt and offended for all of us, for myself, for my family…For those who are trying to do something with a government which turns on the bull dozers to crush any shoots of common sense and conscience…