Protestant Group Wants 2x2 Channel Shut Down

Protestant groups on Wednesday urged Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to shut down the cartoon channel 2x2 for broadcasting shows they claim promote homosexuality and religious intolerance.

It is the second time in a week that the network, owned by Vladimir Potanin's Prof-Media Group, has come under fire for its content.

The Consultative Council of the Heads of Protestant Churches in Russia sent a letter to Chaika on Wednesday, accusing 2x2 of promoting "cruelty, violence, homosexual propaganda, religious hatred and intolerance" by airing cartoons such as "South Park," said Vitaly Vlasenko, a spokesman for the group, which unites several Protestant denominations.

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office would not confirm whether prosecutors had received the letter.

Last week 2x2 pulled two of its shows -- "Happy Tree Friends" and "The Adventures of Big Jeff" -- after a receiving a warning from the government media watchdog that the shows promoted "a cult of violence and brutality."

Under Russian law, a second warning letter could result in the loss of the channel's broadcasting license.

Yekaterina Doglosheyeva, head of corporate affairs for Prof-Media, brushed off the criticism from the religious group.

"The Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency may be able to control the activities of our channel, but the Protestants cannot," Doglosheyeva said.

While 2x2, which broadcasts Western cartoons largely aimed at adults, is hardly a media giant, it has managed to build something of a following since going on the air last year. The network had a 1.9 percent audience share last month, according to the most recent TNS-Gallup ratings. By comparison, MTV, which is also owned by Prof-Media and broadcasts over a considerably greater area, only had a 1 percent audience share in the same period.

Nor is 2x2 the only channel in Russia to broadcast similar cartoons. MTV also broadcasts South Park but has received no similar criticism from the Protestant group.

"We've only seen these types of programs on 2x2," Vlasenko said. "If they're also playing on MTV, then we'll send a letter about them too."

While a Moscow Patriarchate spokesman was quoted in Kommersant on Wednesday as saying that the Russian Orthodox Church supports the right of all citizens to "protest wickedness" by legal means, at least one Orthodox priest said not all cartoons on 2x2 are unfit for Christians.

"They also show 'The Simpsons', which, for example, I really love," Father Mikhail Prokopenko said Wednesday, Interfax reported.