Will the Poltava company «UTA» return to the TV screens?
Since 18 June 2003 the Poltava TV and radio company «UTA» stopped to broadcast on the 24 thTV channel, on which it worked for many years.
The attempts to destroy the TRC «UTA» began much earlier, when Georgiy Chechik, the head of the TV company, «quarreled» with A. Kukoba, the Poltava mayor at that time. At first the subscribers of the cable network of Poltava lost the opportunity to watch the transmissions of the TV company: in May 2001 four Poltava operators of cable TV switched off the TRC «UTA». And several days later the TV company «Misto» began to work. The new company was founded by three (out of four) operators of cable TV and one physical person. The goals of the creation of this TV company and the level of its independence are quite obvious from its features. It is widely known that, having the official status of a private company, «Misto» works for the mayor.
The next attack on the TRC «UTA» was realized through the Poltava Fund of communal property. When the TV company, according to the contract, transferred the money for the rent of the building, where it worked, the fund returned the money thrice, until the officials from Kyiv interfered to the situation. After this the campaign began with the purpose to evict the TV company from the building by the address 43 Zhovtneva St., where the company «Poltava plus» was situated. The head of the oblast state administration issued the order to dismount the transmitting antenna. The authorities tried to force the manager of the building (The House of Technique) to cancel the rent agreement with «Poltava plus». The essence of the pretensions of the local sanitary station was that the transmitting antenna located on the roof of the building allegedly radiated the radio waves dangerous for health, although several months earlier the main sanitary physician of Poltava had signed the permission for the work of the TV company.
When the attempts to evict the company from the building were repulsed, the officials began to apply more strict methods.
During the parliamentary election campaign the TRC «UTA» cooperated with Kyiv TV company «TET». After the election, in November 2002, «TET» handed a suit against «UTA» demanding to pay the compensation equal to 9,300,000 hryvnas for violating the conditions of the contract. The sum of the claim exceeded the actives of the TV company more than in three times. By the opinion of Pavel Moiseev, a lawyer of «Internews-Ukraine», to whom the TRC «UTA» turned for the legal aid, the demanded sum and other circumstances of the case showed that the actions of the claimant were directed at the destruction of the company. By the way, just at that time the National council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting had to announce the competition for the use of the 24 thchannel, which was used then by the TRC «UTA».
Further events confirmed that the persecution of the TRC «UTA» was «ordered» by some influential persons, since on the next day after the claim was handed to the economic court of the Poltava oblast the court issued the resolution about the arrest of the property and bank accounts of the TV company and sent this resolution to the state executive service. The executors fulfilled the decision quickly: on the next day the accounts of «UTA» were arrested (usually this procedure takes 2-4 weeks). As a result, the activities of the company were almost paralyzed.
The TRC «UTA» handed the counter-claim on the acknowledgement of the invalidity of the contract between «UTA» and the TRC «TET».
The economic court of the Poltava oblast approved the decision on the collection from the TRC «UTA» of 9,300,000 UAH of compensation and 17,118 UAH of legal expenses. At that, according to the words of lawyer of «Unternews-Ukraine» Pavel Moiseev, the court ignored all explanations of the TRC «UTA», refused to satisfy its counter-claim and announced a part of the decision in the absence of the parties, thus brutally violating the norms of the material and procedural right.
On 12 March 2003 the Kharkov appeal economic court considered the appeal of the TRC «UTA» and acknowledged the contract between the TRCs «UTA» and «TET» to be invalid. «TET» did not appeal against this decision.
Meanwhile the TRC «UTA» handed the documents for the participation in the competition of the National council for the right to use the 24 thchannel, since the term of their license had finished by that time. At the first sitting of the National council the votes of eight members of the council divided into two equal parts: 4 members voted «for» and 4 – «against». It is interesting that Lilia Mironovich, the representative of the National council in charge of TV and radio broadcasting in the Poltava oblast and a former referent of P. Shemet, the deputy head of the Poltava oblast administration), who, by logics, had to protect the interests of the Poltava TV company, voted for giving the license… to the Kyiv TRC «TET», loyal to the SDPU (u). The members of the sitting ignored the fact that the TRC «UTA» had the most modern equipment in Poltava and the many-year experience of work.
In several weeks, at another sitting of the National council, the final decision was taken: the 24 thPoltava channel was given to the TRC «TET».
However, there is some hope yet that the TRC «UTA», which became really independent after the numerous ordeals with political censorship, will return to the Poltava air: the company handed the documents for the participation in the competition for another TV channel. Of course, if this competition would be honest…