A week before the Olympic Games opened in Sochi, the Kremlin sicced its hounds on Dozhd TV, the last independent news channel in Russia. The channel has been around since the spring of 2010, when the warm breeze of pseudo liberalization swept through Moscow at the height of Dmitry Medvedev's pseudo liberalization. But given the dark, jingoistic undertow of Putin's third presidency, it feels like a golden age and Dozhd is the lone artifact left.
Its staff of 300 young, idealistic Russians (among whom, full disclosure, I've made many close friends during my time in Moscow) crank out the kind of content you can't find anywhere else on Russian television: live broadcasts (non-existent on state TV because you can't control or edit them), interviews with both government officials and opposition activists, and balanced coverage of the situation in Ukraine, where one of its correspondents was so close to the center of the action, that he was shot at.
Given the youth and often shoestring budget of the staff, its shows can feel raw and unprofessional, but the steady pressure on the channel has instilled fear in their advertisers, not letting Dozhd expand, despite having the most educated and wealthy audience in Russia. And why do high-grossing urban professionals tune in, despite the sometimes high-school paper feel of the channel? There's nothing else on television in Russia that isn't controlled by the Kremlin in one way or another. On Dozhd, you can actually get information, rather than propaganda.
Now Dozhd has months to live. Earlier this month, Natalia Sindeeva, the channel's owner, drastically cut salaries and announced that Dozhd had, at most, three months left. Then the building's owners told her that Dozhd had to vacate its headquarters by June. Sindeeva said it's not clear that the lights would or could come back on after such an expensive move. And that's if anyone decides to let in a liberal entity that's fallen from the Kremlin's favor.
Last week, Dozhd had a fundraising marathon. Its viewers donated nearly $1.5 million, a month and a half worth of broadcasting. (Since I often rely on their reporting, I donated about $84.) This week, Dozhd is reaching out to its colleagues in the international media, asking us to chip in and support them.
Here's their pitch, the link to donate is at the end of the video: