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EBU concerned about savage budget cuts for Ukrainian pubcaster

ua:pbs ntuheadquartersThe European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has expressed concern about the underfunding of Ukrainian public broadcaster UA:PBC next year.

According to the EBU, the Ukrainian 2018 state budget envisages providing only about half of the budget previously defined by the country’s law on public television and radio broadcasting.

The law envisages funding of 0.2 % of overall state budget expenditure for the previous year, equivalent to about €40 million. The EBU pointed out that this is already one of the smallest budgets in Europe, with other broadcasters having higher budgets, while covering smaller areas and communities.

The EBU said that operating sustainable public service media was acknowledged as a strategic aim of the Ukrainian state and that a robust and independent public service broadcaster as a crucial tool in the fight against corruption, the respect of the rule of Law, and an important step towards Ukraine’s European integration, was embedded in recent political reforms.

The broadcaster’s board issued a statement expressing concen that the new budget could effect its ability to fulfil its remit and its independence on the even of a general election campaign in the country.

UA: PBC’s director-general Zurab Alasania was cited by the EBU as saying that the broadcaster “is suffering very hard times. It’s a time of reform for us, and rebuilding a former state company into an independent public service media. The lack of required funding undermines the whole reform process, and our future itself.”

EBU Director General Noel Curran said: “The EBU calls on the Ukrainian Government to ensure appropriate, fair and independent funding for UA:PBC in line with the Ukrainian Law and European standards. A sudden drop in its funding levels, would undermine the important process of reform UA:PBC has undertaken in order to operate as sustainable and independent public service media organization.”

The EBU was deeply involved in the creation of UA:PBS, sending a mission to Kyiv in 2014 to advise on the merger of the broadcaster’s predecessor organisations.

Underfunding of public media in Ukraine is not new. Alasania was named as head of UA:PBS in April last year, having played a major role in establishing the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTU), the UA:PBC’s principal predecessor organisation, before resigning in November 2016 over disagreements regarding the funding allocated to that broadcaster for 2017.