Leading US TV provider takes down Russian channels after demand from Holocaust group

Optimum cable company taking down three state outlets after demand from the Blue Card that it remove ‘Russian propaganda’ from platform used by many survivors

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin appears on a television screen at the stock market in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin appears on a television screen at the stock market in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

NEW YORK — The US cable provider Optimum said Thursday it was removing Russian state media from its services after a Holocaust survivors support organization released an open letter asking that it do so.

A spokesperson for Altice USA, which owns and operates Optimum, told The Times of Israel that it has removed Channel 1 Russia, and was in the process of removing RTR Planeta and NTV America. It does not carry NTV Russia.

The Blue Card, a Holocaust survivors support organization in New York, released a letter Wednesday calling for Optimum to remove the “Russian propaganda” from its services.

Thirty-five elected officials from New York signed onto the effort, including the borough presidents of Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.

The letter to Optimum asked the provider to remove the state-controlled networks from its Russian cable package because they are “known for disinformation campaigns and pro-Putin propaganda.”

“These networks air shows and talk shows that downplay the Holocaust and attempt to cover up the former Soviet Union’s antisemitic practices by brainwashing their viewers,” the letter said.

The Blue Card wrote the letter “on behalf of our Russian-speaking constituents and as advocates of Holocaust survivors.”

The majority of the 65,000 survivors in the US today are native Russian speakers, the letter says.

“These survivors turn to Optimum TV as a means of information and entertainment, not to be bombarded with triggering lies and propaganda,” the letter said. “The propaganda aired on these channels can trigger memories from the Holocaust experiences of antisemitism in the Soviet Union, often causing feelings of distress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms.”

Russian media has been widely condemned since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last week. Government-run media has downplayed the assault by portraying the Ukrainian leadership as “Nazis,” diminishing the scale of the violence and refusing to call the conflict a “war.”

Internet giants including Facebook, Twitter, Google and Reddit have taken action against Russian state media online.

Optimum is one of the leading cable providers in the US and mainly serves the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area, where most US Holocaust survivors live. The telecommunications firm also provides phone and internet service.

Optimum has made calls and texts to Ukraine free for its customers this month.

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