Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed to learn that Ukraine’s national public TV channel, UA:Pershyi, is no longer being broadcast throughout the country because of insufficient funding. RSF regards public television as a vital for Ukrainian democracy and calls on the authorities to resume the required funding without delay.
Analogue terrestrial broadcasting of UA:Pershyi’s signal has been suspended since 25 September, except in areas near Crimea and those under separatist control, because of the large debt that it has run up with the state-owned company that provides signal transmission.
The Ukrainian state has not been complying with a legal requirement to channel 0.2% of its budget to UA:PBC, the Ukrainian public broadcaster that owns UA:Pershyi. As a result, UA:Pershyi’s programmes can – for the time being – only be viewed online.
“The suspension of analogue broadcasting of UA:Pershyi constitutes a serious step backwards because it means that one of the major democratic gains of the past few years is now under threat,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“The existence of independent public broadcasting is essential for the democratic debate in the run-up to next year’s general elections. We call on the Ukrainian authorities to reestablish broadcasting of UA:Pershyi and to guarantee its funding, in compliance with their legal obligations.”
The transformation of state radio and TV into an independent public broadcasting service, achieved after a major struggle, has been one of Ukrainian democracy’s major successes since the 2014 revolution.
Headed by an independent supervisory board, the public broadcaster has seven current affairs programmes that provide investigative reporting. One of them, “Skhemy,” specializes in covering high-level corruption.
The existence of a public broadcaster in Ukraine is all the more important because most of the other TV channels are owned by oligarchs who use them to promote their business or political interests.