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The Cabinet of Ministers’ Specific Version of Public Broadcasting



On 9 June the Cabinet of Ministers approved the draft law “On a system of public television and radio broadcasting”.  This entails the creation of public broadcasting on the basis of the National Television Company of Ukraine [NTCU].  The move was announced by the President’s Adviser  on humanitarian, and socio-political issues, Anna Herman. She claimed that leading media experts had been drawn into the work on the draft law.  However the head of the working group on public communications of the Humanitarian Council under the President, Valery Bebyk states that the Cabinet of Ministers, in approving the draft law, ignored the concept drawn up by the Humanitarian Council.

He told Glavred that the general assessment of the draft law was negative since the Cabinet of Ministers had ignored the proposals of several working group, including that of the Humanitarian Council.

He warns that there are grounds for fearing that public broadcasting created in accordance with this draft law will be like Russian ORT. If this law is passed then the entire physical and technical base will be under the control of the government, and those who have the money and physical and technical base will determine the information policy of the television company. Mr Bebyk believes that the mass media should perform a pedagogical function and work on forming public opinion, not just follow it.

He says that the working group on public communications of the Humanitarian Council spoke out in no uncertain terms against the draft law prepared by the Cabinet of Ministers , saying that it needed to be revised, and that they should return to the concept drawn up by the Humanitarian Council.

Glavred also interviewed two prominent media specialists who paint a rather different picture to that presented by Ms Herman.

Victoria Syumar, Executive Director of the Institute for Mass Information says that “it is extremely surprising that despite all our requests to see the text of the draft law, it wasn’t shown to us. For me it’s a total mystery why the creation of this draft law is so lacking in transparency. It does not inspire optimism with respect to the practical result if at this stage we don’t know what is happening, who is planning it, what negotiations are being held. Later, at the stage of passing the document and forming a supervisory council, the process will hardly become more transparent.”

There are various possible versions of public broadcasting, including the Russian ORT, she says and points out that the Cabinet of Ministers’ draft law is not the document that the Humanitarian Council drew up.  She considers that the most important thing is the mechanism for ensuring real public broadcasting.  The future of public broadcasting depends not on the law, but on political will and the understanding that public broadcasting is needed in Ukraine.

With regard to financing for public broadcasting, she points out that the public now pay through their taxes for the First National Television Channel [UTV-1).  The creation of public broadcasting does not require huge expenditure.  You just need to get this money from the State coffers. This is money, she says, that we pay as part of our taxes. The flow of capital should be taking away from the Cabinet of Ministers  or a specific percentage of GNP should be planned.

Natalya Ligachova, Head of the board of the civic organization Telekritika, and Editor in Chief of the Telekritika website says that unlike the draft law drawn up by the Humanitarian Council, the new draft law in many ways runs counter to the practice of public broadcasting in its best form, as seen by BBC, ZDF, ARD. Yet Anna Herman promised that it would be sent to western specialists. Perhaps their view which will agree with the comments from our specialists and members of civic organizations will stop the law from being passed in its present form.

The Cabinet of Ministers’ draft law does not have basic provisions. For example, it does not state that public broadcasting should exist as a body of public law and this is a decisive point, since it must not be a part of government enterprises and organizations. This must be a legal formation unprecedented in Ukraine. There is also no norm ensuring that the public broadcaster’s property is handed to the company by the State. Now it is fixed that everything belongs to the State. There is also no civilized system for forming the supervisory council.

The draft law, she says, is unacceptable from the point of view of the public interest, and hopes it will not be passed.

From the interviews at http://www.glavred.info/archive/2011/07/01/085727-5.html

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