Kiev-based Hromadske.TV is the symbol of the info wars between Moscow and the Western world, a war that the West claims it is losing to the big guns in Moscow.
So worried are the Europeans, Canadians and Americans that the Russians are beating them at their own game –the sexy world of news and entertainment — that they’re funding the company.
According to their financial report for the year ending 2015, they have nearly a dozen foreign backers.
Some long term, some more fly-by-night.
Who are they?
They are the Canada International Development Agency (CIDA); the Embassy of The Netherlands in Ukraine; another Canadian charity called the Ukrainian World Foundation; independent DC-based Pact World; the U.S. Embassy of Ukraine’s Media Development Fund; California based Internews Network; Swiss Cooperation Office and the Swiss International Development Agency; eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s fund is one of the four biggest donors; the Swedish International Liberal Center; Thomson Foundation; the German Embassy of Ukraine and the biggest funder of all, the European Commission’s Ukrainian delegation office.
The U.S. is the smallest donor while European and Canadian government backed agencies are the biggest.
Many of the donations are harmless funds from organizations like Pact and Thomson that train young reporters.
But donations from the European Commission are a particularly interesting reveal given the anti-Russian government news flowing coming out of Hromadske.
The site was created by 43 year old Ukrainian journalist, Roman Skrypin, during the heat of the Euromaidan movement in 2013.
Within a year, the site became one of the go-to spots for news from the activists point of view, all of whom were pro-Europe.
The movement began following the rejection of a trade deal between Brussels and Kiev by then-president Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych was then “rewarded” by the Russians by getting a Gazprom subsidized natural gas agreement.
Ukrainians in Kiev saw this as a slap in the face to national sovereignty, and Yanukovych was ousted from power in February of 2014, punished for kowtowing to Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine quickly moved to install a pro-Western government and Hromadske was its young, aggressive, digital chronicler of events.
Not unlike Ukraine, Skrypin allegedly stole around $250,000 from the online media company he created.
The channel is suing their ex-CEO.
Although Hromadske’s producers go after president Petro “Panama Papers” Poroshenko too, the media outlet can be relied on to push anti-Russia rhetoric about Putin’s aims in Ukraine and the Baltics, a three hour flight north of Kiev.
The Baltic story line has been one of particular interest to the West.
Even Hillary Clinton has chimed in saying the Russians were coming to a Baltic country near you.
Hromadske follows that narrative and others regularly seen in Russia-Ukraine headlines out of the U.S. and Europe.
For instance, this week it ran a story favorite to Western journalist sentiments about how the Crimean Tatars were under attack and being treated as third class citizens in Crimea, now owned by Russia.
The Russian government barred a separate assembly for the minority group, which set off the firestorm.
Nevertheless, the Tatars are a constant cause of concern for the U.S. press.
They make up 10.6% of the population of Crimea.
By comparison, African-Americans are around 13% of the U.S. population.
Hromadske also ran a piece this week assuring readers that NATO and Russia are most definitely not friends, despite recent meetings between the two sides.
Whew… If they were actually talking to each other sensibly, and someone reported on it, that would really throw a wrench in the narrative.
Interestingly enough, both the U.S., U.K. and Germany have sounded alarm bells about Russian television’s impact on public opinion in Ukraine and abroad.
The Daily Beast, no friend of Putin, reported back in September that the reach of Russia Today, better known as RT, was not as big as Russia said it was.
RT is Russia’s BBC.
Sure, the Russians fund this and the Russians fund that and the CIA funds this and the CIA funds that.
But until governments are 100% transparent in what they spend on foreign ventures, it is safe to say that the West equally invests in promoting its official story line to influence public opinion as the Russians do.
Hromadske.TV is merely an example.
American consumers of news media would be disgusted if they learned that the Huffington Post received grants from Russian think tanks.
It may not lead to outright editorial input in daily operations, but journalists and newsrooms are notorious self-censors.
And increasingly under financial strain.
Who will bite the hand that feeds it?
Judging by a small sampling of Hromadske’s daily coverage, not them.