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In Russia, a Crowdfunded TV Station is Getting Attention
© Image: Anton Root /

In Russia, a Crowdfunded TV Station is Getting Attention

Members of the Russian opposition want to launch an online television station, and they're turning to the crowd to make it a reality.

The proposed channel, loosely translated as Social TV, will be broadcast online and focus on social and political news. The monthly operational costs are estimated at 100 million rubles (over $3 million). To finance the endeavor, the station is turning to crowdfunding.

"I think there are a million people in our country [of around 140 million] who are ready to put together 100 rubles ($3) per month for independent and objective television," one of the leading personages behind the idea, Duma (parliament) member Dimitry Gudkov, told Russia's Izvestia news. The hope is to launch the first programs in September.

Social TV plans to draw viewers with interesting and honest content. “The people will watch a program. If they like it, they’ll continue to fund it; if not, they’ll stop,” Gudkov told reporters at a rally. “We’ll use Yandex.Wallet [a service similar to PayPal] and have financial transparency.”

Along with funding the site, users will also be able to submit story ideas, as well as vote on the hosts and writers of the programs. Capitalizing on the social aspect of the channel, the content produced by journalists will have open copyright, allowing other media outlets to distribute their programming.

According to Gudkov, independent journalists and those working for state television have signed up to contribute their efforts. Prominent blogger and opposition leader Aleksey Navalny and TV hostess and actress Kseniya Sobchak have also publicly thrown their support behind the project.

In the weeks preceding Russia’s presidential elections four months ago – and since Vladimir Putin was declared the winner – protests have swept through the country, calling for more personal freedoms and accountability of the government. Figures like Navalny and Sobchak regularly appear at rallies supporting the opposition.

While crowdfunded and crowdsourced journalism are a hot topic right now, it remains to be seen how popular the online television channel will become. One of the biggest hurdles it faces is the country’s low internet penetration rate, which stands at around 37 percent (though it is growing rapidly). This means that the online broadcast will have a hard time reaching poorer citizens, who are less aligned with the opposition movement.

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