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Friday, August 18, 2006

Neo-Soviet Russia Shuts Down Christian Radio

First it was Voice of America that felt the wrath of Neo-Soviet censorship, now Christian Today and Christian Post report that Neo-Soviet Russia has silenced all Christian radio broadcasts across the country as well. Who's next? Is there anybody left?

Nearly all radio outlets affiliated with New Life Radio (NLR), a Russian satellite network operated by Christian Radio for Russia, have been forced off the air temporarily.

All but two of nearly 100 outlets have been affected by an unexpected forced move to another Russian satellite, reported HCJB World Radio last Friday. HCJB is the principal partner of Christian Radio for Russia.

“NLR had to move to another satellite to distribute its programs,” said Mark Irwin, director of HCJB World Radio’s Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States subregion. “This is due to the fact that the satellite distribution slots on the satellite we were using were all bought up by the Russian government.”

In late July, NLR learned it had to move from Eutelsat W4 – the main satellite that carries entertainment programs in Russia – to Intelsat 904 satellite in just a matter of days. The option of returning to Eutelsat satellite is possible but “appear to be prohibitive” because of the cost.

Currently, only two affiliates of NLR are broadcasting its programs – an FM station in Volgodonsk, Russia operated by Volgodonsk Baptist Church, and KICY in Nome, Alaska.

The nearly 100 outlets beside the ones in Volgodonsk and Alaska will remain off air for as long as a year until each satellite dish can be modified to pick up signal from Intelsat. The dishes need to be repositioned and new reception equipment installed to receive signals.

“These dishes are scattered all across Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states and parts of Europe,” Irwin explained. “The problem is getting to those sites. It could take up to a year before they’re all changed. This means curtailing a lot of effective ministry.”

Moreover, the switch could temporarily halt programs seen at dozens of local prisons, drug rehabilitation centers, and at military sites.

“Making all the necessary changes is a mammoth task, and our staff is very busy,” said the HCJB director in Russia. “And for some of the more remote sites, the outlets may actually be outside the footprint of the new satellite. We don’t know yet.”

The move to the new satellite could also result in a 90 percent reduction in “listenership” for people who receive signals through their personal direct-to-home satellite dishes. Listeners will have to make the choice to either give up NLR or give up their television package to follow NLR to a different satellite.

Irwin noted it is a “sensitive time” in Russia with current strains in relations between Moscow and Washington and European countries that could affect ministry in Russia.

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