Differing advice on media activity during the elections
The National Television and Broadcasting Council [NTBC] has decided to create an expert council on issues regarding the activities of television and radio companies during the pre-election campaign and presidential elections. The expert council’s decisions will be of a recommendatory nature but will be taken into consideration by NTBC when examining violations by TV and radio companies of electoral legislation.
The decision to create the expert council was taken on 11 November. It is to be a consultative body which will cooperate with NTBC and the Central Election Committee. According to member of NTBC, although the decisions are of a recommendatory nature, it will be easier for NTBC to give not only its own opinion, but to cite the public’s view.
NTBC management has already approached civic organizations asking them to put forward candidates for membership of the expert council by 16 November. Similar organizations were created in 2006 and 2007 during the parliamentary elections. For example, in 2006 the public council found one of the pre-election clips of the bloc of Natalya Vitrenko “People’s Opposition” unsuitable and recommended banning it. Following this television channels did indeed decide not to broadcast it.
In fact, this is the second such organization created in Ukraine over the past week. On 5 November an Independent Expert Council on Mass Media Activities during the elections began work. It is made up of members of public councils formed in 2006 and 2007. The NTBC decision to create an organization with analogous functions came as a surprise to it.
Natalya Ligachova, member of this original council and Chief Editor of the website “Telekritika”, says that she was certain that the council would fulfil its public functions under NTBC, and that she imagines this is some kind of misunderstanding.
However NTBC considers differently. “The creation of an expert council is our prerogative, and the council created on 5 November has no relation to us. They can gather, issue decisions, but not in our name.”, Vitaly Shevchenko told a “Komersant” reporter. He says that the council formed on 5 November “is not objective”. “One of its leaders directly upholds the interests of television companies”.
The Secretary of the Independent Expert Council Yekaterina Kotenko assumes that the comment refers to her. She is the Head of the Industrial Television Committee [ITC] which is a branch organization uniting the largest television channels, advertising agencies and advertisers and protecting their interests. She points out that her participation on the previous councils aroused no opposition, and that she had received a thank you certificate signed by Vitaly Shevchenko. She adds that her Council has just sent an official request for registration attached to NTBC, and received consent in principle, and therefore hopes that the matter will soon be resolved. She said that for the sake of the cause she would be prepared to step down as secretary.
The Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Oleksandr Holub, from the Communist Party, believes that the expert council regardless of its makeup will support those currently in power and “exert pressure on the opposition medial” He claims that NTBC is politically biased and has long discredited itself through nationalist activities.