The recent decision by Russian television channel “2×2″ to cut a scene in an episode of the US cartoon series “South Park” has sparked anger in the Russian blogosphere. The episode Free Willzyx, which was aired last Tuesday, appeared to mock Vladimir Putin and portray him as an avaricious and desperate dictator. When Kyle, one of the cartoon's protagonists, phones him to ask if he will fly him to the moon, Putin thinks he is the butt of a prank phone call from the US and exclaims “Kiss my ass George Bush, this isn't funny” and hangs up.
As LJ user dark_lawyer comments (RUS), the television channel has a history of censorship:
Television channel “2×2″ has long been censoring cartoons by cutting scenes containing violence, alcohol and drug consumption, both candid scenes and scenes which mock the feelings of different social and religious groups. Of course this is done in a crude way but to a certain extent, everyone can understand why the channel does it. […]
However, there is some uncertainty as to whether the decision to censor this episode, which originally aired in the US in 2005 when Putin was still president, was made by regulators or by executives at “2×2″ itself.
Dark_lawyer is sceptical of higher powers having a say in the matter:
[…] But look when it turns out that they have also cut an episode featuring the voice of Putin, well that is very interesting. And for whatever reason I am most confident that they have not acted on any so-called ‘instructions from above’ and they have done this of their own good will. […]
[…] It looks as if it's not a case of ‘instructions from above’ but a ‘in case of emergency’ measure. In principle we can understand their motives but of course in a way it's a type vandalism, but Channel “2×2″ has always had a lot of difficulties with South Park. In Russia this kind of political satire is always dangerous. Although in my opinion, in the Internet era it's stupid to censor things like this as it simply has a type of reverse effect of attracting even greater attention to such a scene. […]
LJ user alex_kainit explains (RUS) that “2×2″ has not been deterred in the past even by criticism from religious circles:
[…] The blogosphere feels that, in trying to correct the channel's broadcast policy, the regulators have gone one step too far.
We understand that during this channel's lifetime of broadcasting ‘cartoons for adults’, it has time and again faced criticism for propagating violence, cruelty extremism and paedophilia. The biggest “2×2″ scandal flared up in March 2008: leading Protestant Churches in Russia demanded that the channel, which they felt indulged in “overt propaganda of many evils”, should be shut down.
In September of that year, the Basmannyi court issued a warning, which appeared amongst signs of extremism during episodes of South Park. They hoped that the warning would prove enough to stop the channel from renewing its broadcast license. The scandal incited massive demonstrations by the channel's supporters in Moscow and St. Petersburg where they gathered together 50,000 signatures. However, on 17 October 2008 “2×2″ renewed its license for a further 5 years.