UKRAINE – Speaking at a Council of Europe conference in Kyiv last week, UA:PBC managers stressed the urgency of finding adequate funding for the public broadcaster of Ukraine (UA: PBC) which has been functioning with only half the budget prescribed by Ukrainian law.
The Law of Ukraine “On Public Service Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine” sets forth that UA: PBC shall receive 0,2% of the State Budget expenditures from the general fund for the previous year. According to the Law, in 2018 UA: PBC should have received UAH 1.5 billion (EUR 46 million), but the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine allocated the public service broadcaster only UAH 776 million, which is half of the amount guaranteed by the Law.
Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), which celebrated its first birthday earlier this year, is going through a challenging process of restructuring to consolidate 28 regional units throughout the country, reduce staff numbers and make the switch to digital.
Zurab Alasaniia, Head of JSC “UA: PBC” Managing Board says “Underfunding by 50% in 2018 will kill public service broadcasting at the beginning of its establishment”.
At last week’s conference, Members of Parliament, public service media experts, relevant institutions and representatives of civil society, came together to discuss funding models and best practice for public service media.
Finding sustainable funding for public service media in Ukraine is a long term ambition which will require changes in the legal framework and a new collection mechanism. At the same time, the broadcaster needs an urgent short term solution to ensure it can continue to function until the end of the year.
Tetiana Lebedieva, Head of JSC “UA: PBC” Supervisory Board, said the current situation is not a one-time problem of underfunding but a risk for the future of the important democratic reform in Ukraine in general.
“At the last meeting of the Supervisory Board, we planned to approve the Managing Board’s reports on activities in 2017 and plans for 2018. However, when we heard reports from the Managing Board about the funds allocated by the State for public service broadcasting for this year, it became clear that the funds would be enough only until April. Today, there is a real danger of transmission being stopped after April, as there will be no money left to pay for broadcasting,” Tetiana Lebedieva stressed.
She added that the discussed change in the funding model is not a desire to get more money but the aspiration for the possibility of a normal transition to genuine public service broadcasting and building an independent media in Ukraine.
Head of Member Relations, CEE, Radka Betcheva said: “ We are extremely concerned that the lack of sustainable funding for UA:PBC will stifle the growth and development of this important democratic institution and is threatening its very existence at the current time. This may jeopardise Ukraine’s EU accession talks and endanger further EU financial help moving forward.”