Trends of Fake News Distribution and Counteraction in Ukraine (Part-3)
Author: Oksana Kyrylova
Transformations in the TV space of Ukraine: unification of TV channels of all media groups in the joint “United News” information air.
The modern television broadcasting system of Ukraine was formed in rather difficult and contradictory conditions. It was based on Soviet TV practices, which even after 30 years of independence made themselves known in the form of violations of journalistic standards, free attitude to copyright, neglect of certain laws and more. The non-transparent and semi-democratic norms of the post-Soviet media system gradually plunged into the darkness of political and business conflicts, which continued in Ukraine in particular, intensifying during the election campaign. At the beginning of 2022, The Media Ukraine came out with disappointing figures:
- The main media channels were controlled by oligarchic circles, dependent on political influence and commercial gain. The share of four media groups of R. Akhmetov, I. Kolomoisky, V. Pinchuk and D. Firtash in the audience segment aged 18–54 in cities with a population of over 50,000 was 70% (Holovn’ov, 2021). Owner support and a lack of financial transparency helped oligarch-owned broadcasters stay afloat and modernize. Their size and resources, compared to independent media, allowed them to make maximum advertising offers and actively expand into the digital environment. They dominated the advertising market of Ukraine and received the bulk of available marketing revenue. Of course, this situation significantly limited the available sources of income of small TV companies, and therefore there was no question of their profitability. Moreover, in 2021, analysts categorically stated that all Ukrainian media groups were unprofitable. “Until now, investments in television in Ukraine have been made to shape public opinion and, therefore, to influence the top leadership of the state” (Holovn’ov, 2021).
- Practical journalists claimed the existence of a media system in a limited democracy. In terms of freedom of expression, the prevailing view is that “The current media sector in Ukraine discriminates against quality journalism and independent outlets … Although on the surface there is pluralism, many outlets align their media work with the interests of their owners and connected political parties … As a result, such media outlets focus on agenda-setting rather than informing the audience” (Korbut, 2021). The annual Global Democracy Index 2020 rating made by The Economist ranked Ukraine among the countries with a hybrid regime and noted that over the past year the country has dropped to 1st place in the ranking: from 78th to 79th place.
- At the beginning of 2022, Ukraine had a fairly strong group of media resources with Russian or Belarusian founders. As of February 24, 2022, there were 118 of them. They worked in the television and publishing business, in the field of infocommunications, and conducted production activities (Dan’kova, 2022). Over the years, these and other resources have created a comfortable environment for promoting pro-Russian narratives. At the same time, attempts to counter this situation (revocation of licenses and other bans on channels such as ZIK or NewsOne) led to the migration of presenters within the enemy-friendly group of broadcasters and increased pro-Russian influence on the remaining media.
And as bitter as it sounds, the war helped to significantly improve the functioning of the Ukrainian speech system. On February 16, 2022, as part of a joint marathon on Unity Day (at which time, according to Western intelligence, Russia was to invade Ukraine), journalists from state, public and commercial media united and came to an audience with a common political position. There was a lot of criticism of the marathon, but it allowed them to launch their own projects on February 25th after a day of unsuccessful attempts of broadcasters to create a well-coordinated and powerful flow of information about the situation in Ukraine, which was broadcast by most national and regional media. The United News Marathon brought together the country’s most powerful media outlets: the state-run Rada channel, the public broadcaster and the most influential commercial broadcasters 1 + 1 media, StarLight Media, Ukraine Media Group and Inter Media Group. The coordinator of the project was the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine Oleksandr Tkachenko.
The marathon allowed not only to interact effectively with the Ukrainian audience 24/7 by reporting on the latest news, involving leading experts and representatives of military administrations to discuss the situation in the country. This format greatly facilitated the work of newsrooms, which were forced to interrupt television and radio broadcasts and evacuate to safe places. Many employees were forced to move from the capital to other regions, including abroad, causing a lack of qualified personnel. The constant threat of a missile strike (and Russia is targeting critical infrastructure, including TV towers and transmitting centers) required coordinated optimization with the ability to quickly pick up the air by the reserve editorial office from a safe location. The broadcasters divided the air into five-hour segments, which were prepared on their own, passing the baton to each other. In fact, the United News marathon became a kind of Ukrainian know-how, where former competitors rallied around a common idea and began to conduct media activities according to the same principles established by the authorities. The news that the channels made on their own was picked up by the united live studio. The studios changed once an hour. Ukrainian ministers (Iryna Vereshchuk, Dmytro Kuleba, Viktor Lyashko, Denis Monastyrsky, Serhiy Shkarlet and others), representatives of the President’s Office (Oleksiy Arestovych and Mykhailo Podoliak), State Emergency Services officers, advisers to the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Defense, and representatives of the Secretary of State joined the discussion. The speeches of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, the Head of the Office of the President Andriy Yermak, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova, etc. were quickly built into the air. Representatives of local authorities, territorial defense and public figures also took part in the content creation. During the broadcast, regional editorial offices were included, and over time, the names of journalists from the temporarily occupied and potentially dangerous territories began to be hidden so as not to expose them to undue danger.
As for the broadcast of the marathon, it is carried out on the TV channels Ukraine 24, 1 + 1, Rada, ICTV Ukraine, Inter. 1 + 1 International has launched an English-language TV track. The Russian-language version of Rada TV and the Ukrainian-language version of UATV (Where to watch the national TV marathon of the only news #UAtogether in Ukrainian, English, Russian, 2022) broadcast on the same satellite transponder. There is also access to the English broadcast on the YouTube channel Rada. By the way, the translation is provided by volunteer synchronists. The public broadcaster accompanies the marathon in sign language. The radio broadcast was led by the Ukrainian Radio, which is broadcast on three channels of the Ukrainian Radio, Radio Culture, Radio Promin, as well as commercial broadcasters of national and regional scale. In March 2022, broadcasts began through the application “Action” (Diia) and a number of Ukrainian mobile radio players. In order to maximize the coverage of OTT platforms YouTV, Sweet TV, Omega TV, MEGOGO, Kyivstar TV, 1 + 1 video, Olltv provided free access to TV channels UA: First, 1 + 1, ICTV, Inter, Ukraine, Rada, UNIAN TV.
Danʹkova, N. (2022, March 20). Are there media outlets in Ukraine that are owned by Russians or Belarusians? detector.media. https://detector.media/rinok/article/197671/2022-03-20-chy-ie-v-ukraini-media-yaki-nalezhat-rosiyanam-abo-bilorusam/
Where to watch the national TV marathon of the only news #UAразом in Ukrainian, English, Russian. (2022, March 8). Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine. https://mkip.gov.ua/news/6951.html
Holovnʹov, S. (2021, April 21). How the oligarchs exercise a monopoly on information. Сensor.NET. https://biz.censor.net/resonance/3261024/yak_olgarhi_realzuyut_monopolyu_na_nformatsyu
Korbut, A. (2021, April 23). Strengthening public interest in Ukraine’s media sector. Chatham House – International Affairs Think Tank. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/04/strengthening-public-interest-ukraines-media-sector/02-ukraines-media-landscape
Candidate of Philological Sciences, (PhD), Associate Professor, Mass and International Communication Department, Mass Media Faculty of Oles Honchar Dnirpo National University, Dnipro, Ukraine