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Zurab Alasania Summarizes Successes of the First Four Years of the Public Broadcaster and Its Next Steps

January 12 – “This year will be the milestone for the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine,” Zurab Alasania, head of the UA:PBC managing board said in an interview to Detector Media published on its website.

The terms of the majority of the Supervisory Board members will expire in January 2021, and the terms of managing board members will expire in May 2021.
According to Alasania, the successes are:

  1. The company’s employees realized the difference between state and public broadcasting. The main principles of public broadcasting are integrity and conscience in everything from internal rules of operations to providing information to the audience. Alasania stated that the company reached a critical share of 30% of employees who are considered reform ambassadors;
  2. UA:PBC has unequivocally proven to the authorities and political elites its independence. The company is governed by neither telephone law, the term used to describe how government authorities would call the broadcaster to direct its news coverage, nor patrimonial relations;
  3. Ukrainians (from elites to ordinary citizens) still largely live by traditional rules of connections and arrangements, including large-scale and petty corruption. That is why UA:PBC has often tactically lost (including legal cases lost in courts due to corrupt judges). The public broadcaster had many reasons and opportunities to ease its way through “fitting into the system.” But the UA:PBC team believes that adherence to the principles of integrity for UA:PBC is the only possible strategy;
  4. UA:PBC managed to unite 24 completely different companies (regional branches) into a single system. In two years, the company will go through the decentralization process, which will see local managers taking on decision-making power;  
  5. UA:PBC changed all the outdated procedures and processes from paper forms to a new electronic type of document management that meets international standards;
  6. UA:PBC paid off the debts that were incurred when the company was state-owned (including a 24-year debt for the “Japanese credit” (involving interest payments on a 1996 loan from Japan) and the debt to Euronews);
  7. UA:PBC launched its digital platform, despite legislative restrictions that define the public broadcaster as a TV and radio platform, and started to build its ecosystem for all its media assets. In its first year, the digital platform received 3,400,000 views of its videos daily;
  8. The audience of UA:PBC national TV channel (UA:Pershyy) increased by 33% and of UA:Culture TV channel by 25%, despite chronic underfunding and high production costs. UA:PBC launched the Suspilne Studio daily show project with five locations and a new broadcasting concept; the “Countdown” political talk show’s audience is growing;
  9. UA:Culture was reformed from an old-fashioned, outdated TV channel with a tiny audience to an art platform that combines traditions and communicates cultural trends presenting Ukraine in the context of world culture;
  10. UA:PBC established a national FM radio network for each of three channels of Ukrainian Radio;
  11. For the past six years, UA:PBC has broadcast stories by the leading Ukrainian investigative journalists that have caused UA:PBC problems with the power holders (authorities). Now, UA:PBC has established its own department for investigative journalism and has presented four investigative films so far; and
  12. UA:PBC has established a practice of outsourcing content production to external contractors. The content is selected through a pitching process and meets public broadcasting standards.   

Alasania named the goals for the broadcaster and improvements that are in process:

  1. Newshouse (a joint news center), that has been under the development since 2014, is scheduled to start operating in 2021;
  2. UA:PBC’s new studio (Suspilne Studio) will work at full capacity;
  3. UA:PBC lacks quality analytical content, so they will work on it;  
  4. The concept for a project development center has been drafted, but not implemented. The center is planned to be a coordination body for the creation of video content like films, TV series, and talk shows. UA:PBC plans to launch an OTT-platform internet TV service in 2022 and offer a variety of content there, both archived and new;
  5. UA:PBC archives have not been completely systemized and digitized, due to the large volume of content, the high price of equipment, and imperfect legislation. This step is in the plan for the near future; and 
  6. The backup broadcasting center has not been established yet. The plan is that the center should be located in one of the regional affiliates in the near future.    

More on Detector Media in Ukrainian.