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Svitlana Ostapa: Government plans to remove Suspilne from the telethon's evening slots

25.04.2024, 17:10
Photo by Suspilne
Photo by Suspilne

The government plans to remove Suspilne from the evening slots of the telethon. Instead, the Suspilne Supervisory Board came out with a counter-proposal regarding the telethon slot reassignment: to give all primetime slots to Suspilne, according to a blog post by Svitlana Ostapa, the head of the Suspilne Supervisory Board and deputy editor-in-chief of Detector Media, posted to the Detector Media website on April 25.

She reports that today, April 25, the Suspilne Supervisory Board met to discuss an address from the editors saying that the government planst to remove the broadcaster from the telethon's evening slots.

"It is unclear who made this decision; it is definitely not the consensus of all the telethon producers," Ostapa notes.

The meeting also discussed the "suspicious activities" of deputy Maryana Bezuhla, who has written several posts mentioning Suspilne over the last two days.

"The posts (by Bezuhla. – Ed.) contain a lot of twisted information. The deputy repeatedly calls Suspilne a state-owned channel, obviously unaware that we are a joint-stock company, putting us next to the channels which are truly owned by the state, such as Rada, Dim, FreeDom, and the army ones. […]

"Ms. Bezuhla's latest message is: why should the state be using the budget to fund six broadcasters, let's leave one and let it produce and stream the telethon. And the rest of the money should be re-allocated to the information forces and cyber forces. Believe it or not, I've been talking about this for over a year! Why, following the privatization, did the government create new state channels to spend budget money on all over again? All while consistently underfunding Suspilne. Well, this was a rhetorical question, we all know why," writes the chair of the Suspilne Supervisory Board.

Svitlana Ostapa remarks that Ukraine undertook before the Council of Europe to reform the state broadcasting and did so by creating Suspilne Broadcasting.

"Only two state channels were left then: International Broadcasting and Rada. Now there is also Dim, created on the basis of International Broadcasting; Rada essentially split into two channels, one of which has speaks on the telethon. Army television and radio have also emerged. Those who do not understand Suspilne's mission or the difference between the public, the state-owned, and the commercial, persistently call us state-owned. By doing so, they almost imply they have the right to interfere in our editorial and personnel policies," she writes.

Svitlana Ostapa also pointed out that the US State Department included the national telethon "United News" in its report on human rights violations in Ukraine in 2023. The report noted that the telethon provided the government with an "unprecedented level of control over primetime television news."

"Considering that trust in the telethon is dropping and trust in Suspilne is rising, is it reasonable to remove it from the evening primetime? Perhaps the reason is that only the Suspilne slot provides a balance of political forces in the parliament? If the telethon arose as a voluntary association, then such a decision made by someone undermines the parity principle," writes the head of the Suspilne Supervisory Board.

She added that Suspilne has never been allocated the full amount of state budget budget money since 2017: it was 0.2% of the total budget in the previous year, although the company manages to defend their staff and editorial independence while producing tens of thousands of hours worth of content.

Ostapa notes that the media should provide reliable information, not withhold the facts that politicians don't like, not embellish reality, not engage in propaganda.

"For some reason, some officials believe that if a broadcaster works with state budget money, then it should only work for the government. We are a joint-stock company that has a shareholder, its management bodies, a Supervisory Board and a management board, which all work consistently in compliance with the law. State bodies have no right to interfere in the programming policy of the broadcasting company," she said.

Svitlana Ostapa considers posts such as Bezuhla's to be an interference in the broadcaster's work and editorial policy.

She added that the Supervisory Board has developed a counter-proposal regarding the telethon slot reassignment: to give all primetime slots to Suspilne.

The meeting was attended by representatives of embassies and donors, as well as two heads of parliamentary Committees – Mykyta Poturayev and Yaroslav Yurchyshyn.

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