Russification of Ukraine’s TV underway


The removal of Ukrainian Language requirements for the issue and renewal of licences will not only lead to Ukrainian television becoming Russified, but will also have a negative impact on the work market, experts warn.

There are difficult times ahead for Ukraine in the television field. Victoria Syumar, Director of the Institute for Mass Information warns that TV presenters, translators, actors and others should be ready for job cuts. She explains that this is the likely consequence of the cancellation by the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council of the requirement that 75% broadcasting in Ukraine and 25% in the languages of regional minorities. Ms Syumar also anticipates a fall in television production in Ukraine. “There was already much more Russian language than was required by the Broadcasting Council on the Ukrainian screen. The overwhelming majority of information and entertainment programmes are bought on the market of cheap Russian TV second-hand. However now TV channels will have a minimal interest in spending money on translating and subtitling them in Ukrainian”.

As reported, on 20 August the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council removed the language section from the new application forms for the issue and renewal of licences.  Up till then the form had had a section asking which language(s) were to be broadcast in and the percentage of broadcasting time in the particular language.

The new documents are in connection with the entry into force of the highly controversial Law on the Principles of State Language Policy

According to the Law TV channels and radio stations may at their own discretion broadcast in the State language, regional or minority languages, and they decide themselves how much each language is used.

The law also stipulates that the “State guarantees freedom of direct transmission of radio and TV programmes from neighbouring countries”.  No obstructions are to be placed on such broadcasting.

The Chair of the Public Council attached to the Broadcasting Council, Volodymyr Manzhosov believes that “the language law restricts the use of national minorities’ languages and gives an advance to the Russian language”. He expects that now advertising on television will also largely be in Russian.

Victoria Syumar also doubts that the changes will bring about an increase in any other language of national minorities aside from Russian. According to Article 24 § 3 the amount of coverage in particular languages should depend on the size of the group speaking that language.  Ms Syumar however does not expect this norm to be applied. She says that the Party of the Regions wants to report that it kept its promise on the position of Russian, while each TV company will also want to report to its owner so that they can also get brownie points with regional heads.

Head of  the international NGO Internews Ukraine, Kostyantyn Kvurt believes that the Broadcasting Council was in a hurry to carry out the instructions of those in control who want to “accelerate total Russification of Ukraine”.  He names closure of 300 Ukrainian schools and Russification of documentation etc in state structures as other elements of this policy.

From a report by the Ukrainian Service of Deutsche Welle

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