WASHINGTON -- Current Time is marking steady growth and expanding demand since its formal launch one year ago as a 24/7 Russian-language alternative to Kremlin-controlled media.
Created in 2014 to provide reliable news to Russian-speaking audiences in the former Soviet space, Current Time has exploded from a single 30-minute program to a round-the-clock network, bringing dynamic reporting and fresh feature coverage to leading digital platforms, 77 distribution networks, and 47 affiliate stations in Russia and nearly 30 other countries, including the Baltics, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Central Asia.
Led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in cooperation with the Voice of America (VOA), Current Time places a premium on live news coverage, accompanied by robust debate -- aiming to present audiences with balanced, spin-free coverage of key political events, including the March 2018 presidential elections in Russia. It has covered social and political protests that state media ignore, and reported extensively on corruption and the war in eastern Ukraine. Its feature programs have cast a more intimate light on life in Russia, Ukraine, and beyond, telling the untold stories of ordinary residents in unheralded places whose efforts are improving life for their neighbors and communities. Still other programs spotlight start-up businesses, food and travel, and satire. The channel’s documentary series has opened a wider world of experience to its audiences by screening 100 films on its platforms that are often barred from mainstream distribution in Russia because of political content.
Prominent Russian documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky has called Current Time “the only television in the world that tells [Russians], in Russian, the truth about the current state of affairs. And it is television that is the most effective way of gaining their trust.”
On digital platforms, Current Time’s innovative social media videos, designed for younger audiences and particularly successful inside Russia, were viewed 400 million times in 2017. The channel’s subscriber base on Facebook and Russian-language social media sites like VKontakte tripled during the year, and the channel’s YouTube page grew from 35,000 subscribers to 220,000. Current Time has nearly 1 million subscribers across all social media.
While Current Time is, under U.S. law, editorially independent of any government, it was designated a “foreign agent” by Russia in December, together with VOA and RFE/RL’s other units inside the country, including its Russian Service and regional programs covering the North Caucasus, the Volga region, and Siberia.
In addition to social media, Current Time can be watched through its website at currenttime.tv, and worldwide on OTT outlets such as MeGoGo and Plex TV, as well as the AppleTV, and LG and Samsung SmartTV platforms.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 26 million people in 25 languages and 20 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 1.5 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in 2017. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.