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Serious question marks over Court removal of Channel 5 and TVi’s frequencies

Halya Coynash
When two of the three remaining television channels with a more or less independent position have their frequencies removed following an application to the courts by the media holding very closely linked with the present Head of the Security Service, V. Khoroshkovsky, questions must be raised

The District Administrative Court in Kyiv has annulled the results of the tender for broadcasting licenses held by the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council on 27 January.  The official applicants were the TV companies NTN, Enter Film, and Enter Music which are all part of the Inter Media Group, very closely connected with Valery Khoroshkovsky, Head of the Security Service [SBU] and his wife. 

On Monday Channel 5 issued an open letter to the President in which it accused Khoroshkovsky of trying to destroy the Channel, which – together with TVi – are effectively the only channels not owned by people close to the present regime. Before today’s ruling was announced, Khoroshkovsky had publicly denied the charges and said that it was all up to the court.

In April U.A. Inter Media Group which is a Kyiv-based media holding company gave up the broadcasting licence it received on 27 January and claimed that the tender had been held in breach of the law. As a result of that tender 33 frequencies were allocated to TVi; 26 to Channel 5 and 20 to the Inter Media Group. 

As reported back in April ( ), TVi publicly called on the President to stop SBU using its official powers to influence the Broadcasting Council. It claimed that in this it was serving Khoroshkovsky’s business interests.

At the time, the story gained a lot of publicity and the SBU backed down, claiming that it was all a spelling mistake and that TVi had been muddled with a foreign company.

The General Producer of TVi Serhiy Demyanchuk in an interview to the BBC Ukrainian Service accused the Head of the SBU of using his position not only for his own business interests, which is it itself unacceptable, but also to put pressure on other channels. He said that this was an obstruction of freedom of speech.

Mr Khoroshkovsky officially withdrew from active involvement in the media holding in connection with receiving a public appointment in 2008 however his wife became the new director. The BBC points out that in a recent television show, Anna Herman, the Deputy Head of the President’s Administration called Khoroshkovsky himself the owner of the television channel Inter.  

The court ruling will probably be appealed and there will doubtless be assurances from all those in high places, that all is aboveboard. 

The problems are many, and most lie in the conclusions which immediately spring to mind.  TV Channel Inter has been one of the strongest supporters of the present regime for a considerable time. Channel V is the only main channel not either State-owned or owned by those with political or other links with the present regime. News broadcasts on most channels have generally become bland and lacking in controversial subjects or hard-hitting questions. There is little analysis and very often the coverage is slanted, or some stories are simply not covered.  Media organizations have spoken of threats to independent television. Natalya Ligachova, Chief Editor of “Telekritika”, points out that the two channels involved – Channel 5 and TVi – are, together with Tonis, the sole channels with a basically independent position. The fact that it is two of these channels which may not become inaccessible to people without cable television  cannot fail to raise questions and arouse concern.  

Mr Khoroshkovsky is not only President Yanukovych’s choice of Head of the Security Service, but has also been appointed member of the High Council of Justice which under a new draft bill on judicial reform would be given considerably more power than is envisaged in the Constitution. Mr Khoroshkovsky is not, instantly, a lawyer.

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