Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

The authorities respond to providers of information impact

On September 26, the National Council did not renew the license of "112 Ukraine" for digital broadcasting, which retransmitted the air of "112 Ukraine". In particular, LLC "New format TV", LLC "Ariadna TV", LLC "Leader TV", LLC "TV Choice" and LLC "Partner TV". But the channel continues to broadcast on satellite, cable networks and the Internet.  The National Council notes that the companies did not adhere to the terms of the concept of broadcasting, according to which they won the competition in 2011. Frequencies were provided for regional broadcasting. And these TV channels had to provide local information to those regions to which they should broadcast according to their licenses. Instead, it broadcast on a national TV channel. According to the member of the National Council, Serhii Kostitsky, five TV channels received a fantastic victory in the competition in 2011. Although were created literally on the eve. They subsequently began rebroadcasting "112 Ukraine". A national broadcaster was established on regional frequencies. Serhii Kostitsky notes that TV channels did not comply with the orders of the National Council on the organization of broadcasting in accordance with its program concept. These TV channels should have children's programs. This is the basis for receiving a discount and a condition for winning the competition, they paid less to the state budget. And these programs have not been on the air for six years. They have turned into information and analytical with a national discourse, Serhii Kostitsky said.[1]

However, despite the decision of the National Council, the channel said that it will continue to work. The channel also called the actions of the National Council "illegal", and the National Council itself "illegitimate authority". "The authorities were afraid of objective information. But we are not afraid to bring the truth to our viewers. And we will continue to do so today, tomorrow and as always. We stay on the air, we stay on the Internet. We value the trust of our viewers and readers. We continue to work," the General Director of the channel, Egor Benkendorf said.[2]

Also, the party "Opposition Platform — For Life" called the deprivation of the digital license of the "112 Ukraine" TV channel a "corporate raid", which was initiated by the new Ukrainian government. This is stated in the statement of the party. "Helpful puppets from the National Council carried out the order of the authorities to deal with an independent television channel. With its decision, the National Council legalized the corporate raid of the TV channel — the same raid that, as reported by experts and journalists, was preparing in the office of the President. Members of the National Council (the term of office of three of the eight members has already expired), who yesterday obediently fulfilled the wishes of Kolomoisky and Poroshenko, today fulfill the order of Zelensky and Bohdan", the "Opposition Platform — For Life" believes. Also the party reminded of "numerous threats from the President Volodymyr Zelensky" to TV channels which are owned by the Deputy from "Opposition Platform — For Life"- this is about Taras Kozak, the colleague of Putin's godfather Victor Medvedchuk. The media group of a Kozak in addition to "112 Ukraine" includes the NewsOne TV and ZIK. "The President and his team, which is afraid to hear the truth, which destroys free media, forming a new media space for itself, and which does not need journalists, will inevitably repeat the fate of their predecessors," the party believes.[3]

According to the expert of the Public organization "Information security" Tetiana Popova, "112 Ukraine " has long been violating the law. For several years, five companies violated licensing conditions. These should be regional entertainment TV channels. In fact, there was a national news channel. But court's decisions were canceled, therefore the National Council had the right to make such a decision, notes Tetiana Popova. Director of the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law, Taras Shevchenko adds that from a legal point of view, the National Council acted in accordance with the procedures provided by law.

Zelensky’s team also reacted to deprivation of the license of "112 Ukraine" on digital broadcasting, they reported that they monitor the situation regarding TV channel "112 Ukraine". The President believes that freedom of speech is an integral part of a democratic state, but all broadcasters must comply with the law and license conditions. We hope that this will help to resolve the situation in the television market in accordance with the law and the basic principles of democracy, the report says.

Why did the National Council take so long to make a decision? According to Tetiana Popova, the owners of "112 Ukraine" knew about this problem. Therefore, in 2018, the court blocked the issue of deprivation of their licenses. At the same time, according to the expert, perhaps the National Council did not have the political will to make a decision on the deprivation of licenses of "112 Ukraine ".

What are the consequences of depriving licenses of "112 Ukraine"? It is known that TV channels "112 Ukraine", "NewsOne", and " ZIK " are controlled by Putin's godfather Medvedchuk. In early September, Volodymyr Zelensky said that the sources of funding for the party "Opposition Platform — For Life", which includes Medvedchuk, as well as these TV channels have "big questions". The hint concerned Russian indirect financing of these resources. Taras Shevchenko notes that it is very important to change the legislation to require financial transparency. In fact, there are no rules on financial transparency of TV channels, which exist in most European countries. TV channels must submit their financial performance. Then you can just track where the money comes from, the financial situation of the channel. According to experts, there will be lawsuit   from the "112 Ukraine".

Tetiana Popova notes that the digital signal is only 36% of the broadcasting of "112 Ukraine". If "112 Ukraine" somehow continue to violate the legislation, then the National Council may have additional leverage. In particular, will not renew satellite or cable licenses, Tetiana Popova said. Taras Shevchenko adds that Ukraine needs to work systematically on counteraction (Russian- red.) propaganda and disinformation. To investigate more on how information is provided, how it affects, to explain what method they try to manipulate the opinion of citizens. The refusal to renew the licenses of "112 Ukraine" for digital broadcasting is the first step in solving the problem of protecting the information space of Ukraine from Russian propaganda. However, it is obvious that we need a comprehensive approach and a clear strategy. Not to start all over again every time.[4]

Today we see that the authorities are really reacting to such an important threat of spreading Kremlin propaganda from Ukrainian channels to the citizens of Ukraine. It is also worth noting the intention to continue to deprive license such channels in the future. In this case, the ability of 112 channel to manipulate free speech would be minimal.