One of Russia's last remaining independent television stations will be forced off the air when its broadcasting license expires Feb. 8, despite protests by thousands of supporters. TV-2 in the Siberian city of Tomsk has been broadcasting since 1991, making it one of the oldest independent stations in the country.
The station lost its terrestrial signal Jan. 1 when the local branch of the state enterprise that owns broadcasting transmitters, the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Network, declined to renew its contract. It has continued to broadcast on cable since then, but will be unable to do so without a license. Roskomnadzor, the government communications watchdog, had previously agreed to extend TV-2's license through 2025 but then said it had made a mistake.
Viktor Muchnik, TV-2's editor-in-chief, said the channel is being targeted specifically for its coverage. "We can presume that some people do not like some of our reports," he told the BBC's Russian service in December. "Many of the reports on everyday issues are considered political. I cannot say who exactly is annoyed with our reports but certain law enforcement agencies send letters about us to the top."
Thousands of supporters turned out in Tomsk on Feb. 1 to protest the station's imminent closure.
The decision comes as Russia continues to tighten control over independent media. Last year, several major cable providers dropped the Dozhd ("Rain") TV channel, citing pressure from a powerful individual they would not name. Dozhd's owner suggested the order came directly from the Kremlin. And CNN was forced out of the country when its license renewal was rejected.
Most Russians get their news from state-run television networks that largely serve as mouthpieces for the Kremlin. All five of the country's major national networks are owned by the state or companies with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia earned a score of 81 out of a possible 100, with 100 being the worst, on Freedom House's 2014 Freedom of the Press report.
TV-2 has won several Russian television awards and was the only Russian television station to air Putin's Games, a German-made documentary detailing corruption related to last year's Sochi Olympics.
Faced with its imminent departure from broadcast, the station has launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep airing news reports on its website.