Embattled Liberal Russian TV Channel Faces Closure

MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – A  founder of the Dozhd independent television channel said Tuesday that it faces shutdown in weeks after controversy over a poll on the siege of Leningrad in World War II.

Natalya Sindeyeva, who is also the channel’s general director, said that financial difficulties meant that Dozhd had only enough resources to continue operations for one more month.

“Those are not just words,” Sindeyeva told the Kremlin’s human rights council on Tuesday. “Without a budget from advertisements and without money from distribution that we’ve lost – and we lost 80 percent of our income – we would never survive.”

Major satellite providers dropped Dozhd from their service packages last month citing the controversy over the poll that appeared briefly on the channel’s website in January.

Dozhd, which translates as “rain” in Russian, had asked whether the Soviet Union should have surrendered the besieged city of Leningrad – now St. Petersburg – to the Nazis in an attempt to avoid hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The question was posed on the 70th anniversary of the end of the siege and sparked outrage from some politicians and civic groups, who argued that it was disrespectful to those who had died.

The channel’s management swiftly apologized but satellite and cable companies refused to carry Dozhd, causing major financial losses to the channel in advertising and viewership.

Dozhd claimed it was the victim of a campaign by officials to silence the channel, which has reported on opposition protests against the Kremlin and on the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine.

Sindeyeva said that under the best scenario the channel would be able to operate for about two or three months, if the staff agreed to salary and production cuts.


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