Controlling negative media – Ukraine

Oh dear – Mykola Azarov, the Ukrainian Prime Minister is not happy about the amount of negative news on Ukrainian television channels.

What to do?

Well, firstly, deal with Ukraine’s most popular TV channel which in the past few months has become far more critical of government and open to opposition input.  I touched upon the probability that Inter would become less government friendly on 4th November 2012, when commenting upon the who’s in and who’s out of the inner sanctum of Ukrainian politics – one of the “out’s” being Mr Khoroshkovsky who happened to own 61% of the nation’s most watched channel.

“This may seem a bit “so what?”, but which “in’s” are “out” as the presidential elections in 2015 get closer is significant – particularly when “outs” like Khoroshkovsky and Poroshenko own some of the most watched national TV channels in Ukraine.

Thus how far “out” these necessary “in’s” can be pushed is a fine art.- particularly if your current policies are contrary to their business interests.

Should Poroshenko run for President and Khoroshkovsky back him, then Yanukovych has a serious problem both in terms of financial ability, media coverage/ownership and public profile. Lest we forget, Poroshenko is not a member of the Party of Regions but an independent.”

Obviously recognising the threat as I did back then, Mr Khoroshkovsky is now so far “out” that on Friday he sold his controlling share of his media group to Dmitry Firtash for an estimated $2.5 billion – a sale that seems anything other than voluntary – “Under conditions that had formed, I have no possibility to ensure development of the Group. Just those circumstances became my main motive for the sale.” – At least Mr Khoroshkovsky’s statement can be inferred as such.

Thus, Inter, NTN, K1, Mega, Enter Film, K2, Pixel and MTS all now belong to Dmitry Firtash via his GTF Media Ltd – assuming the anti-monopoly committee rubber stamp the sale, which is a foregone conclusion.

From a government viewpoint, Dmitry Firtash is certainly more friendly towards it than Mr Khoroshkovsky since he left its ranks – thus he could no longer be allowed to control such a vast and influential media empire.  Obviously one expects that this media group will return to a position that is very hostile towards the opposition (particularly given the extremely bad blood between Firtash and Tymoshenko), reversing a very welcome trend that occurred when Mr Khoroshkovsky announced his departure from government.

However these shenanigans will not remove all the negative news that Prime Minister Azarov is concerned about being aired across the nation’s television broadcasters.

A glance at the Prime Minister’s facebook page on Friday (1 February), displays a very troubling entry indeed.

To save you from trying to find it and then translate it, a Ukrainian citizen named Illiya Khanin proposed to him that all negative news should be either shown after 10pm at night or on a separate dedicated “bad news” channel.  The Prime Minister’s response “I absolutely agree with you, and today I spoke about this at a meeting with activists of the Ukrainian journalists’ union. You have given me a very good idea – we should order a sociological survey to see how many supporters we have, and tell this to the whole country.”

Really?  A good idea?  In a nation where I can see womens breasts in countless films, dead and mutilated bodies in road accidents or crime news footage at anytime day or night on many channels – why should “bad news” have some form of special treatment?

Define “bad news”?  Embarrassing stories for the government?  The daily slaughter on Ukrainian roads?  The regular gruesome murder footage?  Am I to be left with trashy Slavic pop music or a womans tits in my cornflakes until after 10pm on every Ukrainian television channel?

A dedicated “bad news” channel?  Will its very first broadcast be “the bad news is that all bad news will only be shown on this channel from now on”…….and then suddenly the signal is lost for weeks on end to avoid any bad news being aired at all?

The bad news is that this has even had a moments consideration by the Prime Minister at all – and considering the high penetration of the Internet, a medium where this idea was put to him via facebook, it would be a rather pointless exercise anyway when “bad news” is often all over the Internet long before it is aired on TV.

Surely the best way to control “bad news” is to generate less of it as a government in the first place – and if that cannot be done due to circumstances beyond its control, it can certainly do things that generate “good news” for a change!

  • Odessite

    Excellent!