Tuesday 3 November 2015, the legislation on Reforming of State and Municipal Print Media was tabled in Verkhovna Rada. The aim of the legislation is to stop spending the public budget on the promotion of local and central governmental authorities, to establish fair competition in print media market and to boost development of print media.
The Chairman of the Committee of Freedom of Expression and Information Policy Victoria Siumar and the director of Media Law Institute Taras Shevchenko expressed support of the legislation on a joint briefing. “Denationalisation of media is the issue that the country was not able to accomplish for 23 years and terminate the consequences of the soviet times,” – emphasized Viktoria Siumar.
Adoption of the legislation on Reforming State and Municipal Print Media is the obligation of Ukraine before the Council of Europe and the part of Roadmap of the reforms of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, what became one of the components of the Coalition Agreement.
“In the west democracies, a question of reforming state print media was never posed as in Ukraine, for state print media was never created there. To publish a newspaper is a business of the private sector. The Eastern Europe held privatization at the beginning of the 1990s, Georgia conducted a reform during Saakashvili administration. Ukraine still lives in the communist past, where state and municipal print media continue to guzzle milliards of hryvnias every year,” – stated Taras Shevchenko.
Today within the walls of Verkhovna Rada, the civil activists reminded the MPS about the absurdity of spending budget money on “promotion” of local and central governmental authorities. To illustrate the situation that had to be repaired through this legislation on denationalisation, the civil activists and journalists published satirical newspaper “Radianskyi Meridian” that was distributed among the deputies.
The draft law foresees the reformation of print media, founded by the governmental authorities, bodies of local self-governance and other governmental agencies. “According to the legislation, the reformation shall occur in two stages. At the first stage, the willing newspapers shall be reformed and it shall last for a year. At the second stage, all other state print media shall be reformed during two years.
The draft law comprises four ways of the reform implementation:
- Withdrawal of state and local governmental authorities from the composition of founders (in the absence of the property of editorship);
- Transformation of editorship by labour collective into a market participant;
- Privatization of the property of editorship on a regular basis;
- Transformation into a formal print media.
The director of Media Law Institute also explained that newspapers that decided to wend the way of denationalisation, the property of editorship shall be transferred free of charge under the condition of preserving the name, the language of publication and thematic scope. “Furthermore, these print media shall retain the leased premises in the size of rent defined for state-funded organisations,” – emphasized Taras Shevchenko.
Under the estimations of Media Law Institute, today 550 newspapers are published by local authorities. At average in 2015, 200 – 400 thousands of hryvnias from a local budget are spend on financing such newspapers. Their weekly readership circulation is more than 1 million. Thus, it is thousands millions of hryvnias that are spent on so-called “promotion” of local and central governmental authorities.