Media Reform: Achievements of the Revolution of Dignity and Challenges for the New Government

November 13, 2019

On August 29, the first session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the ninth convocation was held. One of the innovations of this Parliament was to bring the issues of regulation of the media industry (including the audiovisual market, print and online media) beyond the jurisdictions of the Committee on Freedom of Speech. From now on, the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy will be engaged in reforming the media industry in the highest legislative body. It is headed by former CEO of one of the largest media holdings in the country, Oleksandr Tkachenko. Although the committee’s action plan has not yet been made public, it is clear that the draft law on audiovisual media services will become the biggest expectation of the media community. The Verkhovna Rada of the previous convocation failed to approve it, however, this was partly due to a delay in the process on the part of the industry representatives.

However, it was the MPs who came to power in the wake of the Revolution of Dignity that managed to launch almost all key media reforms that had been waiting for more than two decades. Therefore, the task of the new “Media Committee” and the Parliament as a whole is not only to ensure new transformations, but also to support and reinforce the positive changes launched by its predecessors.

As early as 1995, after joining the Council of Europe, Ukraine pledged to comply with the requirements of securing pluralistic democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons under its jurisdiction. In assessing the fulfillment of its commitments, the Council of Europe has repeatedly emphasized the need to democratize the media and freedom of expression. For example, in its Resolution on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Ukraine of October 5, 2005, No. 1466, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe proposed a number of necessary steps aimed at “improving the conditions for the functioning of pluralistic democracy in Ukraine”. In particular: to transform state TV and radio companies into public service broadcasters, to launch the denationalization of print media established by public authorities and local governments, to guarantee transparency of media ownership, to ensure that the new version of the Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting meets Council of Europe standards and recommendations.

Actually, the agenda of the media reform in Ukraine was developed long before the Revolution of Dignity began. However, the desire to continue to use the media as a tool for political struggle, especially during elections, has long delayed the launch of transformation processes. While the updated version of television and radio legislation was approved in 2006 and the European Convention on Transfrontier Television was ratified by Ukraine in 2008, the implementation of other recommendations was only possible after the Revolution of Dignity and largely because of it.

As early as on April 17, 2014, the democratic majority formed in Parliament after the ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had fled the country voted in favor of the new Law of Ukraine on Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine, which gave way to one of the most important media reforms designed to create a truly independent government and influential media sponsors.

Subsequently, the Factions Coalition Agreement ‘European Ukraine’ concluded by the MPs after the 2014 parliamentary election identified a fairly clear list of steps for reforming the media sector as a key priority of social and humanitarian reform. In particular, full-fledged launch of public television and radio broadcasting, the denationalization of state-owned and municipal print media, the liquidation of the National Expert Commission of Ukraine on Protection of Public Morality as a State Institution, ensuring transparency, demonopolization and de-offshoring of media ownership, strengthening of responsibility for obstruction of journalist’s activity, protection of national information space and creation of a network of foreign language broadcasting.

An important role in promoting media reform was played by the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy, which was chaired in December 2014 by Viktoriia Siumar, an ex-journalist and representative of media NGOs. Since the victory of the Revolution of Dignity, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has adopted over 20 laws aimed at improving media regulation. Most of them were developed directly by the members of the Committee in collaboration with media experts and lawyers. In particular, by the representatives of the Reanimation Package of Reforms – a coalition of NGOs, experts, journalists and scholars, that got together during the Revolution of Dignity to transform protest energy into reform energy. In 2014, the Reanimation Package of Reforms Team developed and presented the Roadmap of Reforms, a document that outlined step-by-step plans for change in the 18 most important sectors of the time, including the media.

As early as in February 2015, the Parliament voted in favor of the liquidation of the National Expert Commission of Ukraine on the Protection of Public Morality – in fact, a body of state censorship on which UAH 4 to 5 million was spent annually. Other media reforms were launched over the next four years, although full implementation of changes will require time and additional work on the part of the new parliament and government.

Launch of Public Broadcasting

The first attempt to create an independent broadcaster in Ukraine was made in 1997 with the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On the Public Television and Radio Broadcasting System of Ukraine”. It was assumed that the procedure for the formation of Public Broadcasting should be further determined by the Verkhovna Rada. Parliament was also vested with the power to approve the Articles of Association, the program concept of the Public Broadcaster and Public Council (the supervisory body). Funding for the public service broadcaster was to come from subscription fees, state order, content sales and donor funds. In this case, the state order could be no more than 20% of the total broadcasting volume.

However, after the temporary regulation and approval of the Supervisory Board, no real action was taken to launch public service broadcasting. At the same time, an extensive system of state-owned television and radio companies continued to exist in Ukraine.

An illustrative example of the full dependence of the state media on the ruling elite was the coverage of Euromaidan events by the National Television Company of Ukraine. The results of monitoring studies of state TV channel information programs showed numerous violations of journalism standards: incomplete and manipulative coverage of events, exceptionally positive and uncritical information about the actions of the authorities, concealment of information about victims of the actions of law enforcement agencies during the protests, positions of protesters and opposition.

That is why it is only natural that one of the first steps on the way to democratization was the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine” in March 2014, which provided for the transformation of the state television and radio system into a qualitatively new one – the public one. At the same time, the original wording of the law required substantial clarifications regarding the definition of the mechanism for the establishment of the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), its organizational and legal structure, sources of funding, the procedure for forming and the foundations of the Editorial Board. These changes were introduced in 2015. In 2016, the procedure for affiliating the state enterprise Ukrainian Studio of TV Films “Ukrtelefilm” to UA:PBC was also changed. It in fact sabotaged the process of establishing UA:PBC and could not be reorganized along with other state-owned companies, as there were unresolved court disputes over the property of the above enterprise.

According to the mechanism of transforming state broadcasting into public broadcasting UA:PBC was formed as a public joint stock company with 100% state ownership. Public broadcasting was formed on the basis of the National Television Company of Ukraine, the National Radio Company of Ukraine, the State TV and Radio Company “Kultura”, and 30 regional and local state television and radio companies, which were reorganized by joining the National Television Company of Ukraine. The process of joining the State TV and Radio Company took more than a year and was finally completed in October 2016, which enabled the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to  approve the UA:PBC Articles of Association in December that year. On January 19, 2017, the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine was officially registered as a legal entity, although the transformation process has not been completed.

In order to protect Public Broadcasting from state censorship and interference with the editorial policy, it was important to enshrine guarantees for the independence of key governing bodies of UA:PBC and its financial stability in the law.

Supervision over UA:PBC activities is vested in the Supervisory Board, which is responsible for determining the main activities of UA:PBC, electing members of the UA:PBC Board on a competitive basis, deciding on early termination of their powers, approving the editorial charter and monitoring its implementation, electing part of the Editorial Board, approving the annual report. According to the law, the UA:PBC Supervisory Board includes representatives from the parliamentary factions and groups of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the current convocation (one representative from each parliamentary faction and group). Public associations and unions that carry out their main activities in the fields of education and science, rights of national minorities, human rights, creativity, sports, journalism, protection of interests of children and youth, local self-government, rights of persons with special needs also delegate their representatives. They elect members of the UA:PBC Supervisory Board at special conferences organized by the National Council of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting In order to protect the Supervisory Board from undue political influence, the law requires that the number of Supervisory Board members elected by parliamentary factions and groups be less than the number of members elected by the public.

The UA:PBC Supervisory Board was formed in late 2015 and today consists of 16 members (7 representatives of the MPs, 9 representatives of the public).. In 2017, the Supervisory Board elected Zurab Alasaniia as the Chairman of the Board of UA:PBC on the basis of an open competition among 7 candidates, each of whom had to present their own concept of UA:PBC development. The main competitor of the newly elected chairman of the board was Oleh Nalyvaiko, the chairman of the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, who was deemed to be a “pro-government” candidate.

The freedom of editorial policy of the public broadcaster from political influence was an important achievement. It was on public television channel that the high profile programs of journalistic investigations were aired: “Schemes: Corruption in Detail” (a joint project with Radio Svoboda) and “Our Money”. Due to a totally independent editorial policy, some MPs initiated changes to the legislation to oblige the UA:PBC to give them airtime to cover their activities. The corresponding draft law No. 6681 “On Amendments to Article 18 of the Law of Ukraine “On Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine” (on covering the activity of executive bodies, other state bodies, local self-government bodies, their officials in the mass media of Ukraine)” was not approved.

A serious test for UA:PBC’s editorial independence, trust in Public Broadcasting and reform as such was the decision of the Supervisory Board to terminate the contract with UA:PBC Board Chairman Zurab Alasaniia on January 31, 2019. According to the Minutes of the meeting, which was made public a week after the secret ballot, the reason for dismissal was chosen as “non-compliance of the Chairman of the Board due to lack of qualifications”. A number of non-governmental organizations, journalists, international institutions and even some members of the UA:PBC Supervisory Board expressed concern about the decision and the way in which it was adopted. In particular, due to the lack of communication regarding the immediate grounds for dismissal. In such circumstances, such ill-considered steps could have led to the destabilization of public service broadcasting, especially in the context of the electoral process. On June 19, 2019, the Shevchenkivsky District Court of Kyiv found it illegal and  overturned the Supervisory Board’s decision to dismiss Zurab Alasaniia from his post as a Chairman of the UA:PBC Board.

No less serious a threat to the functioning of Public Broadcasting is a systematic underfunding. At first glance, the law has established a rather effective and independent system according to which the funding of UA:PBC is envisaged as a separate line in the State Budget and amounts to at least 0.2 percent of expenditures of the General Fund of the State Budget for the previous year. However, despite a certain guarantee, the Verkhovna Rada breaches its obligations every year by underfunding the public broadcasting by 30-50%. Thus, in 2017, the state budget law allocated UAH 970 million instead of UAH 1,294 million provided for by the relevant law. In 2018, according to the law, the amount of funding was to be UAH 1,535 million, of which a mere 776 million was allocated. The Law on the State Budget for 2019 provides or UAH 1,005 million out of UAH 1,816 million. Given that Public Broadcasting today covers 26 TV channels and 28 radio stations in all regions of Ukraine, such underfunding is a significant obstacle to the effective implementation of the UA:PBC mission.

The Law on Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine also envisages other possible sources of funding, such as the sale of its own content (which in the beginning requires significant upgrade of hardware and software systems, funding for external shooting), the possibility of introducing a subscription fee, and attracting international assistance. As a whole and individually, this cannot guarantee the necessary financial stability. In addition, it is worth noting that advertising on UA:PBC in commercial volumes is allowed only in the first 4 years of its activity. In the future, the volume of advertising and sponsorship materials should be reduced to 5% during the 24 hours (up to 10% during the election period)[1].

In the near future, Public Broadcasting is facing challenges related to finding a better funding model and updating the Supervisory Board. It is important that all these processes do not ultimately undermine the achievements of previous years but preserve and enhance public service broadcasting for the benefit of civil society.

Denationalization of Print Media

The transformation of the state television system into public service broadcasting has been an important step towards reducing state influence on the media. At the same time, another reform of the media – denationalization of print media of the state bodies and local authorities – has played a role in enhancing media independence.

In 2014, there were more than 600 municipal newspapers in Ukraine. The content of these publications was not always limited to the non-biased coverage of events important for the community. On the contrary, it was quite often that such publications became a kind of “relay stations” of local authorities and an administrative resource for hidden campaigning. And all this was done at the expense of local budgets. According to the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, in 2013, 645 newspapers received financial support from local budgets which amounted to 97,899,500 UAH. In 2014, the city councils spent an average of UAH 200-400 thousand with a variation from UAH 420 per year on the Misto newspaper of Zhytomyr City Council to UAH 8.5 million on the Kharkovskie Izvestiia newspaper of Kharkiv City Council in 2014.

The situation with state-owned publications was also no better. We mean the parliamentary newspaper Holos Ukrainy, journal Viche and more than a hundred publications founded by the ministries and other authorities. Yes, state newspapers receive tens of millions of hryvnias each year from the budget. In 2015 alone, more than UAH 14 million was spent on the financing of the parliamentary newspaper Holos Ukrainy and Viche journal from the state budget.

Concepts of denationalization of mass media in Ukraine were introduced in parliament back in 1998. The need to adopt a special law on reforming the state and municipal press was also envisaged by the Decree of the President of Ukraine of January 20, 2006 No. 39 “On the Action Plan for the Fulfillment of the Duties and Liabilities of Ukraine Arising from its Membership in the Council of Europe”. Actually, the respective draft laws were registered in the Verkhovna Rada. However, before the Revolution of Dignity, no parliament had managed to vote in favor of reform.

The Draft Law of Ukraine “On Reforming the State and Municipal Print Media” No. 1123 eventually became the legislative framework for the reform although it contained a number of shortcomings. Its purpose is to limit the influence of the state on the media, to create a level playing field for the media of different forms of ownership and to increase the competitiveness of the print media. The way to do this was to oblige all state and local governments to quit being the founders of print media. The law was approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in December 2015 with proposals from the President.

On January 1, 2016, the process of denationalization of print media in Ukraine finally started. It had to take 3 years to reform all state-owned publications. The reform envisaged two stages. The first stage was to become “pilot” stage, last one year and cover publications that voluntarily consented to the denationalization. The purpose of this stage was also to identify potential obstacles to reform and prepare appropriate legislative proposals to address them. However, the process of drafting the list of “first stage participants”, after the approval of which the process of transformation formally started, was delayed by almost a year – until November 23, 2016. As a result, 244 municipal and state-owned publications, which submitted documents for the first stage of reform, actually started the process of denationalization along with the rest of the publications that were subject to reform in the second stage. It was to run from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

In 2017, the print media established by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine and military-civilian administrations were withdrawn from the reform for the duration of the anti-terrorist operation. And on October 2, 2018, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also voted for withdrawing the parliamentary newspaper Holos Ukrainy (Voice of Ukraine) and the newspaper of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Uriadovyi Kurier (Governmental Courier) from the sphere of reform. However, since these newspapers have the status of official print media, the law prohibits them from advertising or publishing any other information (including journalistic material) that is not required to be published by law.

The decision to reform the print media and editorial board rests with their founders (co-founders) in accordance with the law. In total, the law identified four ways to implement the reform. So, if the editorial board does not have any state or municipal property, it was enough for the authorities to make a decision to withdraw from the founders of the publication. Otherwise, if the authorities want to quit being the co-founders, then the editorial office had to be transformed into a new entity (it should be carried out by the employees) with the preservation of the name, purpose, language and thematic focus, or the editorial property had to be privatized. The letter option was used when the employees did not want to participate in the reform.

For publications founded by ministries and other central executive bodies, a special reform method was envisaged: transformation of the print media into an official print publication, which, according to the law, is issued with the purpose of publishing legal acts, decisions of these bodies and information which is to be published under the law. The work of journalists is not used in the preparation of such a publication.

The law also established certain safeguards for the reformed media. In particular, state-owned or municipal premises where the editorial offices were located at the time of the reform are leased to them for a term of at least 15 years with a preferential rent. In addition, subject to the preservation of the name, purpose, language and thematic focus of the publication, reformed editorial boards may be given pre-emptive rights to enter into agreements on the coverage of the activities of local executive bodies and local governments, as well as targeted financial assistance.

The Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy, representatives of the State Committee for Television and Radio and media experts tried to amend the relevant law twice. Their aim was to eliminate obstacles that arose in the process of denationalization, such as conflicts between the founders of publications and employees, the problems of preserving editorial property, etc. The last attempt was the Draft Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Reforming State-Owned and Municipal Print Media” No. 8441, which among other things provided for a mechanism for retaining the right to the title of the publication and certain property rights for the employees if the publication was not reformed until the completion of the second stage through the founder’s fault. However, the draft law was not approved.

Despite all the obstacles, as of July 1, 2019, reform process was completed: 556 out of the 664 municipal print media and 41 out of the 98 publications established by the state authorities were reformed.

Changes in the Regulation of Audiovisual Media

In addition to increasing media independence from state censorship and influence, the field of commercial audiovisual broadcasting has also undergone significant changes, in particular, in the area of deconcentration and strengthening of the powers of the national regulator – the National Council of Ukraine for Television and Radio Broadcasting, which should effectively respond to violations of the requirements of legislation and licenses by broadcasters.

Media ownership transparency

In accordance with the principles of state policy in the field of television and radio broadcasting, defined in the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”, the state undertook to establish “effective restrictions on the monopolization of TV and radio broadcasting organizations by industrial-financial, political and other groups or individuals” and to guarantee “protection of TV and radio broadcasters from financial and political pressure by financial and political groups and public authorities as well as local self-government bodies”. For a long time, these provisions remained absolutely declarative. Not only did the current regulation fail to establish any effective obstacles to the concentration of media in the hands of individual oligarchs, but it also failed to contribute to the disclosure of information about who is the real owner of certain television and radio channels.

Therefore, the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Ensuring Transparency of Media Ownership and Implementation of the Principles of State Television and Radio Broadcasting Policy” in September 2015 was the first step towards a more transparent and demonopolized media environment.

According to the adopted law, all broadcasters licensed under the Ukrainian law are obliged to submit to the National Council, by 31 March each year, information on the ownership structure for the reporting period. The ownership structure report includes a sufficiently detailed list of information, in  particular information on all owners, participants, shareholders of the information activity entity at all levels of the chain of ownership of that entity. Including the final beneficiary, i.e., a specific individual who has a decisive influence on the management or activities of such a broadcaster should be indicated. In addition, information on all persons holding more than 10% of the authorized capital and/or shares of the licensee, all key participants of each legal entity in the ownership chain, as well as the control relationship between such participants (i.e., the fact of holding of over 50% by such persons or the the fact of holding of more than 50% of votes by such participants as to one entity) should be disclosed. Information on the ownership structure of the broadcaster must also be published on its official website. Thus, any viewer can easily check who is potentially influencing the editorial policies of the channel.

Similar requirements are provided for program service providers. At the same time, they are also required by law to disclose information about the persons who provided the program service provider with financing (credits, loans, financial assistance, etc.) during the reporting year, if the total amount of such financing from one person during the reporting year was 125 or more minimum wages (in 2018 – more than UAH 465 thousand) in the report to the National Council.

Failure to submit or late submission of ownership information to the National Council will result in a fine of 5% of the license fee on all licenses granted to the offender. Lack of reliable information about the ownership structure, as well as non-transparent ownership structure (if it is impossible to identify all persons with significant involvement or significant influence) serve as grounds for refusal to issue a license.

As early as in 2016, out of 1557 licensees, 862 submitted their ownership structure documents on time. Penalties were imposed on 486 licensees. In 2018, the National Council fined only 174 licensees for the failure to submit or late submission of ownership information. At the same time, the National Council can only issue a mere warning for other violations in the field of transparency of media ownership, such as the submission of incorrect or incomplete information about the ownership structure. It should be noted that the current powers of the National Council do not allow us to fully investigate the veracity of the submitted information about the ownership structure of TV and radio broadcasting organizations and the identified beneficiary owners.

Thus, the media were required to disclose persons who are actually behind them for the first time. Prerequisites have also been created for more effective control to prevent monopolies in TV and radio broadcasting. According to the detailed requirements of the law, no natural or legal person alone and/or in association with a group of related persons shall have the right to control in any way more than 35 percent of the total territorial television and radio information market – national, regional or local one. At the same time, there is still no understanding of the “market”, as well as sufficient powers to assess the regulator’s real control. In order to fully achieve these goals, Ukraine should consider options for implementing media financial transparency requirements.

Strengthening the powers of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting

For a long time, the National Council’s effective response to violations was complicated by the fact that the regulator had to determine the amount of penalties it could impose on violators, in agreement with the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. Any attempts to reconcile fines came to nothing. It was only in 2015 that the National Council finally managed to introduce fines for the first time since its establishment. The lawfulness of such a procedure has become subject to review even by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. However, on November 1, 2016, the Verkhovna Rada approved the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” (concerning improving the procedure of imposing sanctions by the National Council)”, which enshrined the list of violations and sanctions in the text of the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”.

The fines are calculated as a percentage of the license fee – 5%, 10% and 25%, depending on the offense. For example, a fine constituting 25 percent of the license fee is imposed for calls for the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order of Ukraine, for incitement to launch a war of aggression or its propaganda and/or incitement to national, racial or religious hatred, as well as for promoting exclusivity, supremacy or inferiority of persons on the basis of their religious beliefs, ideology, belonging to a particular nation or race, physical or property status, social background.

An important innovation of the law was the right of the National Council to impose sanctions in the form of fines for particularly serious violations without the mandatory prior announcement of a warning. Previously, fine as a sanction could only be imposed if the licensee did not remedy the violation after the warning or if the licensee had already received at least three warnings since the license was obtained or renewed.

For example, on February 7, 2019, the National Council accused Novyny 24 Hodyny LLC (NEWSONE) of incitement to launch a war of aggression or its propaganda and/or incitement to national, racial or religious hatred and pursuant to Article 72 of the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”, imposed a penalty on the company constituting 25% of the amount of the license fee, which is equal to UAH 96,530.25 for this broadcaster[2].

Protection of national TV and radio environment

Russia’s armed aggression in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea have significantly influenced the media reform agenda. In 2015, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law of Ukraine “On the System of Foreign-Language Broadcasting of Ukraine”, which created the legal framework for launching state foreign-language broadcasting. This kind of broadcasting is aimed at protecting the national interests of Ukraine abroad, forming and maintaining a positive image of Ukraine in the world through prompt and unbiased reporting of events in Ukraine, official domestic and foreign policy and position of the state. Since 2014, a number of changes have also been made to limit the spread of the Russian information product. At the same time, MPs and the Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy initiated increased guarantees for the development of national audiovisual content.

Before the adoption of the notorious “Law on the Principles of State Language Policy” in 2012 (the so-called “Kolesnichenko-Kivalov Law“), the proportion of airtime in Ukrainian had to be at least 75% of the total daily national broadcasting. The language law abolished this requirement giving TV and radio companies a free hand. Unfortunately, quite often, they would choose cheap Russian-language series and programs.

In order to restore the legal guarantees for the use of the official language in broadcasting, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine voted in favor of amending the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”  in June 2016. These amendments affected the share of musical pieces in official language broadcast in the programs of TV and radio companies. Today, the share of Ukrainian-language songs on the radio must be at least 35% of the total number of songs played during the day, as well as separately between 07.00 am and 02.00 pm and between 03.00 pm and 10.00 pm. For those broadcasters that distribute music with at least 60% share of songs in the official languages of the European Union of the total volume of songs, the corresponding quota is 25%. In addition, at least 60% of the daily programs, including news-analytical programs and entertainment programs, must be in the official language.

According to the November-December 2018 monitoring of the National Council, on average, the share of Ukrainian-language songs on national radio stations is 51%, on regional and local radio stations – 48%, and the average share of programs in Ukrainian on the national and regional radio stations is 86% and 92%, respectively.

On May 23, 2017, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on the Language of Audiovisual (Electronic) Media”. According to the approved changes, the total weekly broadcast of national TV and radio companies and/or films in the official language shall be at least 75% of the total duration of programs and/or films (or parts thereof) between 07.00 am and 06.00 pm and between 06.00 pm and 10.00 pm. A similar requirement applies to news coverage. According to the National Council, in 2018, the average share of the Ukrainian language on domestic national digital TV channels increased to 91.7%.

The new Law “On Ensuring Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the Official Language”, which came into force on July 16, 2019, finally enshrined the established “quotas”, stipulating that the minimum volume of broadcasting in the official language for certain categories of TV and radio companies should be set by the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”

Media Reform Agenda

The Revolution of Dignity has succeeded in pushing things along with the key media reforms. The launch of public service broadcasting and print media denationalization are unqualified achievements the full significance of which we are just beginning to realize. At the same time, it is important today to prevent these reforms from a rollback and to maintain the independence from political influence and censorship. In particular, it is necessary to introduce a more secure funding model for Public Broadcasting and to amend legislation to guarantee the independence of UA:PBC and to effectively distribute the powers of the UA:PBC management.

The changes made to the basic law in the field of television and radio broadcasting since the Revolution of Dignity are still selective, unsystematic and ineffective despite the fact that they are aimed at improving regulation in the field. Today, there is a need to apply new principles of state regulation to adapt audiovisual services to the rapid development of technological conditions and challenges in the information space security. In September 2017, a draft Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” No. 7397 was registered in the Parliament; it provides for a thorough update of the regulation in the field of audiovisual media in accordance with the requirements of the Council of Europe and the European Union. Unfortunately, the Verkhovna Rada of the previous convocation failed to consider the draft law in the first reading. This gives the new parliament the will to propose its own option for regulating audiovisual media services in the country. Given the complex relationship that the new law has to regulate, it is important that it is developed with the participation of a wide range of stakeholders from the industry, regulators and expert environment.

Unfortunately, for five years after the Revolution of Dignity, the Parliament has also failed to introduce changes in the media sphere in the context of electoral reform. Ukraine does not have any effective mechanisms in place to limit paid political commercial yet. At the same time, the cost of such advertising is reimbursed, in particular, at the expense of the State Budget. Legislation should provide for substantial restrictions on the purchase of airtime for the purpose of election campaigning and also improve the mechanisms of control and prosecution of media for violations. Equally important, in the light of recent election campaigns, should be transparency in the cost of political advertising on the Internet.

Convergence and increase of independence and efficiency of the media regulator, strengthening of guarantees of journalistic activity protection, abolition of outdated norms of the laws on obligatory coverage of the authorities activities and state support doe mass media, introduction of requirements for online media transparency – these issues are on the list of measures which in the next 5 years should be translated into the achievements of the new parliament.

[1] Read more about UA:PBC funding:

[2]One of the arguments the National Council used was the decision of the Independent Media Council – experts justified the presence of signs of incitement to hatred in four TV programs at NewsOne channel: