Yurii Stets: Ukraine Tomorrow Needs UAH 200 Mln
As early as on February 22, the Minister of Information Policy Yurii Stets announced that during the month his ministry would launch a TV channel of international broadcasting called Ukraine Tomorrow. He said the channel would counterbalance Russian propaganda channels, in particular Russia Today. The broadcaster is expected to be financed from the state budget and owing to financial assistance rendered by the EU and the USA. Then, in his interview to
Telekrytyka Yurii Stets told that Ukraine Tomorrow would go trilingual (Ukrainian, English, and Russian) on the air at the beginning. However, later the minister said that some programs about Crimea will be in Crimean Tatar.
According to the Deputy Minister Tetiana Popova, Yurii Stets takes personal care over creation of Ukraine Tomorrow. That is why Telekrytyka decided to assign a separate part of the conversation with the Minister to the issue of international broadcasting.
In May, the Ministry of Information Policy worked out a draft law on international broadcasting, which has not been promulgated yet. Yurii Stets promises that the draft will be registered in parliament in a week. According to this draft, which was described to Telekrytyka by the minister, Ukraine Tomorrow is proposed to be established in the form of public joint stock company with 100% shares owned by the government. This is, by the way, what exactly said in the law on public broadcasting. Only where the management of the public broadcaster is appointed by a supervisory board, the director of Ukraine Tomorrow, according to this bill, will be personally appointed by the Minister of Information Policy.
Alongside with the adoption of the bill, UTR international broadcasting channel currently owned by the state will be transferred to the Ministry of Information Policy by end of June.
According to the minister, about 250 persons will work for Ukraine Tomorrow and new faces will appear. The channel budget is UAH 200 million and its going to be financed from both the state budget and sponsor funds and grants.
During our interview with Yurii Stets we covered other aspects of his ministry. One of May achievements of the agency he runs is supposed to be the development of the draft Concept of Ukraine’s Information Security. Apart from this document, which has to be approved by Verkhovna Rada as a law, the Council of National Security and Defense will develop and submit to the President of Ukraine the "Doctrine for Information Policy", and the government will adopt the "State Program of Promotion of Ukraine's Information Space". In June the Minister of Information Policy intends to discuss a draft concept during the roundtable meetings held in regions, and the concept itself will be exposed to an expertise of a number of European institutions.
When asked about the number of TV towers installed in the front-line areas, issue of news papers for the ATO area, and delivery of any press into this region, the minister answers in short: all this information is available either in reports or on our website. However, we preferred hearing exact information from the minister instead of addressing references to reports or website. It seemed to us that the minister avoided answering these questions, which concern the society.
He refused to comment the process of establishing a public council under MIP by citing the law. "If I intervened into the process, this would be regarded as breaching the law and you would be the first to accuse me of that. That is why I will not comment on either the composition or activity of the Public Council", he said.
- Mr. Stets, what is the exact time the Ministry intends to launch a renewed international broadcasting, namely the Ukraine Tomorrow channel?
- Legal procedure of transferring two TV channels — BTV and UTR — to the Ministry will take a month. Simultaneously, the process of approving the bill on international broadcasting will go on. We have already reached an agreement from the logical point of view with people’s deputies and the members of the
Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Policy. However, the project must go through full procedure of agreement, registration and approval to avoid any questions regarding its legitimacy in future. The project is going to be presented in the parliament as initiative of the Cabinet of Ukraine. The Committee will consider and offer to parliament to adopt it in the first and second reading and in general.
- Is it possible to pass through all necessary approval procedures by relevant ministries and agencies (State Committee for Television and Radio
Broadcasting Of Ukraine, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, etc.) and the relevant government committee during a week given that the project has not even been made public?
- I will speed up the process and I think we will submit it to Vekhovna Rada within a week.
- Is there a vision of how the channel should look like? What languages it is going to be broadcasted in?
- I think that international television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine should be established in the form of public joint-stock company "Ukraine Tomorrow
International Broadcasting Company of Ukraine" (hereinafter the "INTU") with 100% of shares owned by the state.
INTU is going to be the object of national standing. Any alienation, transfer (other than short-term lease), privatization of real estate or unfinished construction objects, land plots they are located on, as well as shares owned by the state in the authorized capital of INTU will be prohibited.
INTU programs will be broadcasted in Ukrainian and other languages, depending on the reasonableness and feasibility of using this or that language to achieve INTU goals.
The law will prohibit any state bodies and local governments, their officials and officers, as well as non-governmental organizations to interfere with INTU activities to establish censorship, preliminary control, and illegal influence over the content of the information disseminated by international television and radio broadcasting of Ukraine.
- Where will the channel headquarters be located?
- As soon as BTV and UTR channels are transferred to us, we will analyze the reasonableness of having so many premises. We will need two studios, one of which is the news room. This is going to be either a BTV studio or UTR one situated at 26 Khreshchatyk St. the second one is a pavilion located in the "pencil" at 42 Melnykova St. As for other facilities for an editorial office, a cutting room, and other, this list needs to be revised and I am convinced that we do not need so many premises.
- How will employees be selected? How many people will be included in the staff? What will happen to UTR employees, will the staff be reduced?
- The channel staff headcount will not exceed the number of 250 people. Currently the total number of employees on both channels — UTR and BTV — is around 400 (a bit more than 300 — Telekrytyka).
The Director of the channel will be appointed by the minister. The board of directors composed of technical director, development director engaged into content allocation on the channel in different countries will ensure vital activity of the channel. As for the content, the editorial board headed by the chief editor will take care of it. These must be management bodies intertwined only on technical matters. The editorial board should be created on the first day; editorial statute should be adopted and a definite document to be signed to regulate absolutely transparent cooperation and relations between the board of directors, the ministry, and the editorial board. The editorial board should accordingly be responsible for content and production of the product.
The INTU statute will be elaborated by the Ministry of Information Policy and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
As for editors, journalists and others, I am sure that new faces will be welcomed. This channel will require professional people able to make the product in English, Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar languages. No other languages, like Portuguese, will be available. We are not going to overman for nothing.
The staff will be optimized and every employee will be vested with individual responsibilities. I mean this is going to be a low-budget channel with justified staff and financing.
- Do you plan to get involved Pershyi Ukraine in international broadcasting, as it was mentioned earlier?
- According to our agreements with Zurab Alasania, there is a clear segregation of his and mine functional responsibilities. He takes care of public broadcasting. In case he considers that the platform needs airing in other languages, then — OK, he’s got his Pershyi Ukraine.
- Is any equipment and furniture still being moved from BTV channel for the needs of the Ministry of Information Policy?
- No, we stopped this process. We made a revision, so any person attempting to steal even a nail will go to prison. There were attempts to count the number of computers in a rather intricate way before BTV transferring to the MIP and so on. This process was stopped.
- Is there still 16 people working for BTV?
- Yes, about twenty.
- And what is the source of financing?
- The BTV budget and the funds the channel had on its account are enough to cover the BTV maintenance costs. This is not the National Bank, nor anyone else, these are specific funds kept on BTV account. And the sum is enough to keep the BTV afloat up to September this year.
- Do want to leave the digital terrestrial frequency earlier assigned to BTV for Ukraine Tomorrow channel. Why do you need a domestic license for? The Kultura channel, which became a part of public broadcasting system, was the one willing to receive this license.
- In order to broadcast for Donbas. I will advocate the issue of grating a digital broadcasting license to Kultura channel. I will do everything possible to make this happen. There has never been any talk evidencing that this should be a digital frequency owned by BTV channel.
Digital frequency bidding was held in violation of the law, and I believe there are enough mechanisms to distribute the frequencies properly. This concerns not only Kultura channel, but also the bidding for distribution of FM radio frequencies to be held soon. So I hope this very bidding, unlike previous ones, will not be held under the auspices of commercial radio stations who paid the money. I hope that the best frequencies in regional centers will be given to
Ukrainian Radio. This will happen for the first time.
- What kind of funding is planned for Ukraine Tomorrow (in terms of the form and volumes)?
- Ukraine Tomorrow will become a successor of the UTR prior to beginning of the next budgetary year.
Given the economic state of the country and hryvnia rate fluctuations, the planned budget is about UAH 200 million (UTR channel now receives 26 million —
Telekrytyka). Well, a channel of a better quality than the current one can exist under a 50 million budget, but when it goes about possible inflation processes and we want to improve the quality and create a media platform, this will require about 200 million a year. This is going to be both state financing and funds attracted by patrons, sponsors and grants. Unlike Estonia or Latvia, where launching of Russian-language TV channels is financed from the state budget to counter Russian propaganda. They have a clear understanding that the information security of the state is a primary task of the state. Some people here still do not understand or refuse to understand it.
- What is your opinion about Ukraine Today TV channel?
- I cannot give an assessment of commercial broadcasters. Will the creation of platform "Reanimation Package of Reforms" (RPR) be positive for the state?
It apparently will. Does the Cabinet have to comment somehow the RPR activity? No, it does not. It has just to accept better legislative initiatives and use them in its work. The same thing is here, this is a commercial channel. It is great when such initiative can work for the state and every time it has an advert affect it will be correspondingly assessed by society. Where commercial channels operate for PR or image of the holders instead of working for the state, they must be assessed by viewers.
- Recently you have announced about the completion of the development over the Concept of Ukraine’s Information Security. When, in your opinion, the concept will be approved by the parliament? Have the state agency powers in the field of Ukraine’s information security been distributed according to the concept?
- According to our roadmap announced by me 9 hours after my appointment, in late May we presented the draft concept to public. The like presentation in regions is planned in June. During the same time this document may be analyzed by OSCE and other interested non-governmental organizations, or any of our partners. We are not reinventing the wheel. We take the best other countries have. Then we pass this document to Verkhovna Rada — this is going to be a draft
Law "On Ukraine’s information security". Obviously, this is going to be governmental initiative. This is built into the Coalition Agreement and the
Governmental Action Plan for 2015. I am convinced that this concept will be supported by society, because the expert council that worked over the project is composed of many representatives of various NGOs. Then, I believe the project will be supported by relevant committees and in September it will be adopted by Verkhovna Rada.
There are three documents to be worked out by the expert council under MIP, which concern the President, parliament, and government. The first is the "Doctrine for Information Policy" to be considered by the Council of National Security and Defense and submitted to the President. Another one is a draft law "On Ukraine’s information security", which is subject to approval of Verkhovna Rada. It will regulate the relations: what is a freedom of speech and journalism and what is information security of the country. The third document is a "State Programme of Ukraine's Information Space", which has to be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. This is a very broad programme, which will involve NGOs, public, journalist circles, etc. this is a programme of sustainable development of information space. The government must support initiatives like the establishment of a fund to support television and radio products telling about the history or culture of Ukraine. Accordingly, this product should be financed by the government; an open competition is held where any production studio or channel can win, and therefore create such a product. So this document clearly distributes the tasks to be performed by the government and society.
- One of MIP commitments is the restoration of broadcasting in Donbas. How many TV towers have already been allocated in front-line areas? What are the obstacles in their allocation? Do you attract private investment for this purpose, for example, the funds of TV channels? Which ones?
- We have TV towers placed in the frontline areas. This information can be found in the "News" section on MIP website.
- How many newspapers are currently issued for frontline areas? Who produces them? (e.g. Sergii Tykhyi, Oleg Bazar and others started publishing the Front newspaper, does it still exist?) Is there an edition targeted at an individual audience — the army or residents of the frontline area?
- There is an issue of a newspaper initiated by Tetiana Popova. As for my volunteer initiative "Ukraine Unified", we had 75 issues with a total circulation of more than 1.5 million copies. However, there are publications that have existed for a long time like Den, Gazeta po-ukrainski and others. As for my newspaper "Ukraine Unified", it is published both in Ukrainian and Russian — one for ATO area and another one for civilians.
- Is it still issued?
- No it’s not, but for the last two weeks, as I have some financial problems, but I think the things will change when we sell one of our apartments. I hope the paper publishing will be restored in a few weeks.
- Have you arranged the delivery of press (general press, not war-oriented or volunteer) to the font-line area? Which editions are being delivered there now, how often? If not arranged, then why?
- Yes, Oleksandr Brygynets is the one who handles these issues all the time and this information is also available in reports — the evidence that newspapers are distributed among the military at the forefront and civilians.
- Why haven’t you limited the number of members in your Public Council? For example, 20-25 representatives of NGOs, which would be elected by the rating principle?
- Once we had the first meetings, I saw two categories of people. Some said: "Stay with us until the end of the meeting" and the other: "If you stay, we will consider it as interference into establishment of the Public Council under MIP". So I left to avoid being accused of pressure. The NGOs themselves decided on how the Public Council should be established. I accepted their decision for granted. So this is a question to NGOs including those from working in media sector. If they decide to boycott the process, these are they who to ask for that, including NGO Telekrytyka. If you joined the council, you would be able to insist that the PC should compose of 25 members. If I intervened with the process, this would be against the law and you would be the first to accuse me of this. That is why I will not comment either on composition, or the activity of the public council.
Information taken from osvita.mediasapiens.ua
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