Ukraine moves from state to public broadcasting despite conflict

by Jane Whyatt
Two years after Ukraine’s Revolution of Destiny, journalists in the emerging public service broadcasting networks have published details of President Poroshenko’s offshore bank accounts. It marks a media freedom milestone, according to Sumy regional TV chief Mikola Chernotytskyi.

Ukrain Dnipro, Ukraine (Photo: Hoodrat, Dnipropetrowsk, Montage ECPMF, CC BY-SA 3.0 )

He was speaking to ECPMF at the CIRCOM conference of Europe’s regional broadcasters in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where he gave a progress report on his country’s media transformation. Ukraine is slowly switching from state-run broadcasting to a system based on the western European model, with a Supervisory Board to act as a buffer between the government and the broadcasters.

Public service media (PSM) are ‘emerging’ in Ukraine thanks to intensive support from the Council of Europe and the EU. They are working to a timetable which should see a fully operational PSM  system in place by October 2016.

Yet already journalists in Sumy regional TV, serving an area 40 kilometres from the Russian border, are starting to behave more independently, says
Chernotytskyi. “In some parts we still have a bad situation, with journalists working like a PR agency for the local government” he says, “But after the reform we will have all journalists working to professional standards in all our local programmes.

The programme of reform continues despite severe difficulties in eastern Ukraine where the regions of Donestk, Lugashk and Oblast are controlled by Russian-backed separatists. Broadcasters and other staff who were willing to move into Ukrainian territory work from their new bases, and broadcast to the occupied territories using transmitters provided by the European community. “But they are not anti-propaganda machines, and I am happy Ukraine will never be able to establish such propaganda machines as Russia did. Our task is to unite the country and inform the people how difficult it is in this situation,” says Chernotytskyi.

Support from the Council of Europe is co-ordinated by Galyna Smirnova from her office in the capital Kiev.

We are waiting for the big audio visual services law and then we will have the necessary framework”

she comments.  Already some important legal changes have been enacted. Last year Ukraine adopted the law on reform of communal state print media, transparency of media ownership and amendments to the law on public broadcasting. Also Ukraine’s parliament has adopted the strategy on approximating media regulation to European standards, freedom of speech and public information policy. At a time when public service broadcasting is facing political pressure in Poland, UK, Croatia and other European states, the trend in Ukraine is moving instead towards greater freedom and independence.

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