Washington, D.C. — Current Time, the 24/7 Russian-language network, has seen explosive growth on digital platforms that are expanding the channel’s audiences and impact as it marks its second year.
Led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in cooperation with Voice of America (VOA) as an alternative to Kremlin-controlled media, Current Time’s on-the-spot, live news reporting and fresh features have driven increasing demand on social networks, attracting audiences aged 15-24, in particular. Its followers on Facebook increased by 165% to over 850,000, while subscribers to its YouTube page grew 15-fold to 550,000 since the network’s launch in 2017. Its innovative social videos were viewed more than 520 million times across social media platforms in 2018.
Its impact on the Russian media landscape was on display as recently as February 6, when popular Russian YouTube host Yury Dud’ (Дудь) cited a Current Time program about hardship in one Kurile military town to challenge Kremlin propaganda chief Dmitry Kiselyov about his own TV show’s avoidance of such coverage. The interview has registered over 6.7 million views since it was posted to YouTube. In December, Current Time provided Russian audiences their only opportunity to view prominent Russian director Vitaly Mansky’s film “Putin’s Witnesses,” an uncensored, behind-the-scenes account of the events in 1999-2000 that brought Vladimir Putin to power.
U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Chief Executive Officer John F. Lansing congratulated Current Time on its growing influence, despite efforts by Russian authorities to thwart its distribution and a December 2017 decision by the justice ministry designating it a “foreign agent.”
“It is clear from Current Time’s overwhelming success that Russian-speaking audiences are hungry for accurate, objective, professional, and independent news and information – in short, an alternative to Kremlin-controlled media,” said Lansing. “I’m confident this is just the beginning, and we will continue to meet the information needs of Russian speakers everywhere.”
RFE/RL Acting President and former Current Time Director Daisy Sindelar emphasized the channel’s role in breaking the Kremlin’s monopoly on Russian-language news and information across Russia and its periphery.
“The goal behind Current Time has always been to depoliticize the Russian language — to build an audience based on common values, not nationality,” Sindelar says. “When a viewer anywhere from Bishkek to Tel Aviv to Vladivostok turns on Current Time, they hear a familiar language — but for the first time, it’s not the Kremlin that’s speaking it.”
VOA Director Amanda Bennett added, “Current Time is an excellent example of the productive cooperation that has developed between RFE/RL and VOA in creating the network, particularly the daily news program Current Time America and the multi-episode travelogue ‘America. Great Journey.’”
Current Time (known in Russian as “Настоящее Время”) provides balanced reporting, robust debate, original features, and one of the largest collections of documentary films in the Russian language to Russian-speaking audiences in 20 countries online and via local distributors, and worldwide on OTT and satellite platforms.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
Voice of America reaches a global weekly audience of more than 278 million people in 47 languages. VOA programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, FM, medium wave, streaming audio and video and more than 2,350 media outlets worldwide. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
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Contact Joanna Levison
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Deputy Director of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC