A week ago, media project ARU TV hit the Internet aimed at offering news to Russian speakers in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltics while poking fun at Kremlin propaganda.
The programme is initiated by the Belarus political fugitive Pavel Morozov and Artemi Troitski, a Kremlin critic and journalist, both residing in Estonia. Mr Morozov, one running foul with homeland law a decade ago for publishing cartoons ridiculing President Alexander Lukashenka, is optimistic about the project and thinks Estonia to be best location for it.
-Pavel, last week your programme was launched over the web. Do you think the start has been successful?
We have had no time to think about it, as the entire crazy week has been filled with work at the website and producing the content. Judging by the numbers of visitors, the comments and media attention, the first impression seems positive though.
-What kinds of programmed do you show?
We have a weekly news summary by Artemi Troitski, animation «Time to Lie» mocking Russian TV propaganda, and expert section where opinion leaders dissect the weightiest topics of the week. And we have some text news as well.
-Who are the target group and how many viewers do you predict?
The target group is inhabitants of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltics with stable Internet connection and technical devices allowing to watch video. These are the people who regularly use the social sites Youtube, Facebook and vKontakte. In April, we hope to arrive at 120,000 visits and by January 2016 about half a million. But we’ll see, it’s all up to how we do our job.
-Don’t you worry that as ARU TV increases in popularity, Moscow may try to censor it in Russia or, worse yet, organise cyber attacks?
This is possible, but we do have such experience with Belarus powers and KGB. We have considered the risks and made preparations.
-Why did you opt to launch ARU TV in Estonia? Is this because you and Artemi Troitski currently live here, or is there some other reason?
Me and Artemi living here plays a big role. But the most important reason is my experience in standing for democracy and in media told me: Estonia is the best place for it in our region. I like the local companies and the Estonian legal system and how the state lets business and non-governmental organisations free growth and development.
-How many people does the project involve, and whence cometh the money?
At the moment, the team consists of 15 professionals and volunteers from the European Union, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. 44 percent of the financing comes from our own means, but we do get support from the Danish MyMedia program, partners in Germany, and private enterprises. We hope in three years to make ends meet; till then, we intend to draw upon public and private funding.
-Are you also planning to launch a TV channel?
Putting it more correctly, we will create a web platform focussed at production of quality Russian language videos. For the time being, the intention is to operate over the Internet. Meanwhile, we have nothing against our content shown over partners’ TV channels.
-This fall, Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) will be airing programmes for the Russian speaking population over a new channel. Are you planning cooperation with ERR?
Let’s hope we can contribute to this project important for Estonia. At the moment, however, we do not have a clear-cut agreement with ERR. In the future, maybe?