We, the NGOs in the field of media and protection of freedom of speech, consider inadmissible the initiative of the MP Oleh Dunda to establish the State Information Concern of Television and Radio Broadcasting.
On December 15, 2021, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine registered Draft Law No. 6430 “On the State Information Concern of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine”. In the draft law, the MP proposes to establish a concern in the form of a joint stock company with 100% state ownership on the basis of an independent public broadcasting company, the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC), state international (overseas) broadcasting PE “International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine” and the executive body – the Ukrainian State Film Agency. Establishment of a concern in the form of a joint stock company violates the current legislation of Ukraine, because according to the Commercial Code of Ukraine, a concern is a separate organizational and legal form and it represents a statutory association of enterprises and other organizations; and by no means is it a joint stock company which includes the state authorities.
Draft No. 6430 proposes to liquidate public service broadcasting, international (overseas) broadcasting and to create a structure similar to the one that existed before the spring of 1991 – the State Committee of Television and Radio Broadcasting of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which had departments in charge of broadcasting and content production, as well as censorship. The proposed “concern” should also:
- Hold information auctions, which sell the TV, radio and film content created under the terms of reference developed by the Scientific Expert Council of the State Information Concern;
- Exercise control over the distribution of quality national content on television and radio channels of national and local importance.
That is, the business entity is to be given the powers of a public authority.
In addition, the draft law imposes on private broadcasters a mandatory placement of at least 25 percent of national content created in accordance with the terms of reference of the Scientific Expert Council of the State Information Concern. This is a violation of editorial freedom and free competition, as even current quotas give free choice of sources and types of content, which can be produced by the entities themselves and purchased elsewhere.
Such a legislative initiative is an imitation of solving problems that exist in the national media space, such as positioning international broadcasting, increasing support and improving the quality of state-sponsored films. And most importantly, it is a direct attempt to deprive the citizens of Ukraine of independent public service broadcasting, the creation of which took a lot of time and effort. As of 2021, the state has underfunded the public broadcaster by UAH 5 billion since 2017 – these funds could be used to produce and purchase from national producers a lot of quality and interesting content for various platforms: from television to social media.
The problem-solving formula proposed by the draft law is a way toward state censorship, which will negatively affect the quality of information that citizens will consume. This document will not address the problem of “protecting our citizens from the consumption of information spam imposed by the Kremlin”, but will be a direct copy of the worst practices of the Russian Federation, in particular in the absence of independent public service broadcasting. Moreover, such an initiative is a clear sign of contempt for institutions that are working hard to develop and disseminate high-quality Ukrainian content: The Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, the Book Institute, the Ukrainian State Film Agency, Public Broadcasting and a large number of other private initiatives, bloggers and communities that produce or publish a high-quality cultural product with little state support, if any.
We emphasize that the creation of public broadcasting is Ukraine’s commitment to the Council of Europe, of which Ukraine is a member. The existence of public broadcasting from 1991 to 2014 did nothing to improve information security, moreover, at critical moments it served the most odious persons, who are now residing in the territory of the aggressor country and continue to work against Ukraine. The trend toward restoring and building government-controlled broadcasting, which intensified in 2021, contradicts the principles of Ukraine’s development as a democracy, Ukraine’s international commitments and Council of Europe recommendations.
We call on the MP Oleh Dunda to withdraw the Draft Law No. 6430 “On the State Information Concern of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine”.
NGO Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
NGO Media Reform Center
Mohyla School of Journalism
NGO Institute for the Development of the Regional Press
NGO Mass Information Institute
NGO Human Rights Platform
NGO Ukrainian Media and Communication Institute
NGO Souspilnist Foundation
Independent Media Council
Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy
NGO Internews Ukraine
NGO Active Program