Zurab Alasania, Ukraine’s well-known journalist, is in a hurry now. He’s been trying to transform state-controlled First National TV channel into a public broadcaster since heading the National Television Company in March 2014.
The state's presence has a long history in Ukraine’s media. Broadcasting was used as a tool of government and financed from the budget for a while. The Verkhovna Rada passed changes in the public broadcasting law on March 19 after more than 10 years of an attempt to implement the philosophy of the public service of the press in Ukraine.
Alasania says it is a long process to launch Suspilne TV, which translates as “public TV.” He just returned from Denmark, where he visited public DR1 and DR2 public broadcaster channels. They will send five experts to Kyiv to help create multimedia newsroom and then Ukraine’s journalists will go to Denmark to understand how TV works there.
Alasania told the Kyiv Post
that Denmark will address European donors to raise approximately two million euros for Kyiv’s newsroom
Ukraine’s media community is divided over the idea of public broadcasting. Some are inspired while others say that a new outlet should be started from scratch, not on the basis of the archaic First Channel.
Member of Ukraine’s parliament Mykola Tomenko proposed an alternative draft law. He actively criticized the public broadcasting law and called for the creation of two separate entities: TV and radio. According to Tomenko’s draft law, local authority may establish public broadcasting on the basis of regional state broadcasting companies, but Verkhovna Rada rejected it.
Yulia Kutsenko began to work as an anchor to the First Channel on Sept. 1, when the broadcaster launched international news program. Kutsenko says a culture shock and adaptation lasted for a couple of months.
“The space is huge, the corridors are empty. You don’t know who is behind the doors and it turns out that everything is organized and used ineffectively,” Kutsenko told Kyiv Post during an interview.
Formal presentation of public broadcasting will be on April 7 in Kyiv, but Alasania says people should wait at least six months to see Suspilne
The logo of the First Channel will switch to the logo of Suspilne. National Television Company will also show new website and tell about new TV programs, which will appear on air soon.
Public broadcasting launches on the basis of government-run broadcasters in Kyiv and oblasts. State will support it financially for four years, giving 0.2 percent of its budget and after this transition term people will pay for it. According to National Television Company of Ukraine, 7,519 people are working on 27 TV and radio stations throughout Ukraine that should be reformed.
Kutsenko says that she saw the oldest 70 years old cameraman in her life and he is still working on the channel. “It’s a Soviet problem, where people worked with zero efficiency. It would be humanly to fire most of the staff and to hire new personnel who will create more interesting content,” she adds.
Diana Dutsyk, CEO of the non-governmental organization Telekritika and media expert, says public broadcasting firstly has to develop a model of the newsroom and its work. So far, this is all just in the process and then decide with other issues. “Under the new model all people who worked in the old system will not be able to realize themselves because of the lack of professionalism”, she said.
At the same time, Dutsyk says Suspilne can win over the audience by creating good quality content. In order to raise the ratings of the First National channel standards of programs should be increased.
“It is a process and it does not happen in one day. The question is what movies they will show; if there will be cultural and educational projects. Many issues associated not only with the news. It is important to do the research audience and ask people what they want to watch”, Dutsyk said.