Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

April 26,2016

MOSCOW— Television, where most Russians get their news, has increasingly been under pressure in Russia. It is now almost completely state controlled. But in Moscow, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin media attacks.

Privately owned TV Rain is one of Russia’s few remaining broadcasters willing to regularly air views critical of Kremlin policy.

“We’re not a politically motivated network. We don’t really see it as our goal to challenge the political establishment or anything like that,” anchor Natalia Shanetskaya tells VOA. “You know, we just try to be as objective as we can and that’s really what we’re about.”

TV Rain's independence is what brought many of its staff to the station, including some who left state media as the Kremlin tightened its grip.

FILE - A protester holds a flyer reading "We need Dozhd" during a rally in support of the independent television station Dozhd (TV Rain), in Moscow, February 8, 2014.

“I actually quit RT (formerly “Russia Today”) about a month before the Crimea events,” she says, adding that “I just had a feeling that things there were tightening in a very uncomfortable way. And, as somebody who was there from the beginning, I found that disturbing."

But refusing to join state media in pandering to authorities has come at a price for TV Rain.

Political pressure over a program that questioned Soviet strategy during World War II led cable companies to drop the channel in 2014.

Most believe it was an excuse. “I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t that story, about the siege of Leningrad, they would find something else,” TV Rain’s Digital Media Chief Ilya Klishin tells VOA. “It was just a matter of days or weeks.”

To survive, TV Rain was forced to change to an online subscription-based model.

Subscribers have grown to more than 70,000, and its web site gets millions views per month.

But, along with all Russian media, TV Rain is caught up in a growing downpour of restrictions.

Mean while, TV Rain is looking to entertainment programming to reach a larger and younger audience in Russia beyond its urban, liberal, and well educated base.