MOSCOW, RUSSIA (December 16, 2010) – The Russian government closed down one of the two remaining FM radio affiliates of the New Life Radio Satellite Network (NLR) last week.
The government said the station in Norilsk had violated its license of providing at least 10 percent of local programming by broadcasting only a feed from NLR, said Dan Johnson, president of Christian Radio for Russia (CRFR), which operates NLR.
Although CRFR now operates independently, the Evangelical Covenant Church provided startup assistance and several Covenant churches across the country continue to support the radio ministry.
Norilsk, with a population of more than 100,000, is the northernmost city in Siberia and is above the Arctic Circle.
The station began broadcasting the NLR satellite signal in 2007, and listenership in the area was growing. A second station was launched in the nearby port city of Dudinka. The increasing popularity attracted the attention of the government, Johnson says.
The action does not come as a complete surprise. The government has closed other CRFR stations. The KGB (the state security services) had repeatedly visited and harassed the Norislk station’s founder, Mikhail Dolgikh, who worked in management at a state-owned telecommunications operator, Johnson says.
Dolgikh eventually was forced to leave and the station – which had been located in the telecommunication company’s building – also had to move. The station had not had time since the move to begin local programming, Johnson says.
NLR plans to apply for a new license that will enable the station to broadcast just supplied programming. It will apply to obtain a similar license for the remaining station in Dudinka.
Obtaining the licenses will be difficult because the Russian government has closed so many Christian stations not connected with the Orthodox Church, Johnson says.
NLR continues to provide international satellite radio coverage in addition to Internet radio coverage. Johnson says providing that service also is becoming increasingly difficult due to financial pressures that have led the $170,000-a-year operation to pare staff to three people.