Ukraine creates public service broadcaster

The Ukraine has bowed to pressure from the rest of Europe by moving to create a national public service broadcaster, which could also help clear the way for its accession to the European Union. The country is planning to merge its two EBU (European Broadcasting Union) members, National Television Company of Ukraine (NTU) and the National Radio Company of Ukraine (NRU), with the State Television and Radio Company Kultura, to create the new Public Service Broadcasting of Ukraine (PSBU).

According to NTU Director General Yegor Benkendorf, this step must be taken to ensure freedom of speech, and could also "raise the intellectual level of Ukrainian citizens." This was a reference to the highly commercial nature of current Ukrainian programming, with Benkendorf hinting that the new broadcaster would be less concerned with gaining large audiences in the short term and would focus on raising standards.

"This will take place through the production and broadcast of programmes that the vast majority of commercial channels do not care about, namely cultural, educational, historical ones," he said. "Add to this list programmes for national minorities, certain social and religious groups. Every citizen of our country shall benefit from the resultant consolidation of Ukrainian society and strengthening of its intellectual level."

Ukraine actually wants to go further than many other European countries to combine financial and editorial freedom by avoiding a license fee and instead funding the new broadcaster by giving it 10 percent of the advertising revenue of Ukraine's commercial broadcasters. This would avoid the pressure felt for example by the BBC in the UK to put on popular content to justify the license fee by gaining large audiences, even though it has no direct commercial incentive to do so.

The TV advertising market in Ukraine is currently worth more than $3 billion a year, so the PSBU can look forward to an annual budget of over $300 million, which should be sufficient to ensure financial independence and produce some high quality programming.