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A Russian TV channel's slogan centered on optimism, but that didn't last long

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

American journalists complain about working in a tough profession. But try to do it in Moscow. A new documentary tells a story of an independent Moscow TV channel's attempt to survive in modern Russia. From Moscow, NPR's Charles Maynes has this preview.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: When Russia's Dozhd TV channel - or TV Rain in English - first launched in 2010, the station was very much a product of its seemingly progressive times.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DMITRY MEDVEDEV: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Russia had a new young president in Dmitry Medvedev, heard here, who replaced Vladimir Putin following the end of his then-two constitutionally allowed terms in office.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Optimistic Channel.

MAYNES: And Dozhd, with its bright pink logo and slogan - The Optimistic Channel - offered lifestyle news and a hipster vision that matched Medvedev's own embrace of the West amid a reset policy with America, says the station's founding producer, Vera Krichevskaya.

VERA KRICHEVSKAYA: This word, reset, sounded beautifully for all of us, and we were full of optimism.

MAYNES: The very title of Krichevskaya's is new documentary, "Expletive This Job: Adventures In Russian Journalism," is more than enough to suggest that optimism didn't last.

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UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing in non-English language).

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Non-English language spoken) - Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

MAYNES: By the time Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, the channel was increasingly at odds with the Kremlin for its coverage of a wave of opposition street protests demanding reforms and free elections.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: The problem, says Krichevskaya, was that in covering Russia as it was, the station put the Kremlin's carefully managed vision of Russia as it should be in stark relief.

KRICHEVSKAYA: Dozhd showed what is really going on - really. It's a key word here. It reflect the real life.

MAYNES: For that, Dozhd has been punished repeatedly. It's now available only on the internet after the government cut the channel's access to cable TV and, therefore, a national audience in 2014. Dozhd journalists and owner Natalya Sindeyeva have faced threats and intimidation, as well as multiple studio evictions lawsuits.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: This past August, Dozhd was added to a government list of so-called foreign agent media, a label widely seen as yet another Kremlin attempt to cap the channel's reach and influence, says Krichevskaya.

KRICHEVSKAYA: The government most likely, in their mind, there is a red line that Dozhd cannot cross in terms of the numbers of audience.

MAYNES: Indeed, even Krichevskaya's film seems unlikely to get newly required government approval for a wider showing inside Russia. And American audiences will have their chance to see adventures in Russian journalism. It premieres at this year's DOC NYC film festival and is available for online viewing through the Thanksgiving holidays.

Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.