Government Plan to Strongly Reduce Funding for Public Service Broadcasting

Update: 22 Oct 2018 State replied
Year 20 Sep 2017 Country Ukraine Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , EBU Alert level Level 2
20 Sep 2017 Ukraine Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , EBU Level 2

The 2018 state budget, soon under discussion at Ukrainian Parliament, envisages for the public broadcaster around half of the budget defined in the Law on Public Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine. The provisional budget of the public broadcaster, UA:PBC, for 2018 will be around 1,5 billion UAH (around 45-49 million EUR), which is one of the smallest budgets in Europe in comparison with other broadcasters, such as Poland, Romania, Croatia, having few times higher budgets, but covering smaller areas and communities. The Management Board of UA:PBC published on 18 September 2017 an official statement expressing its concern about possible under-funding of UA:PBC which could affect not only broadcaster's ability to fulfill its remit, but moreover could affect its independence, especially in the eve of the election campaign. Several professional organisations, including the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) called on Ukrainian Government to ensure appropriate funding for the public broadcaster in line with the Ukrainian Law and with European standards, as provided in Council of Europe Recommendation 1878 (2009) on Funding of public service broadcasting and EBU's principles for stable, accountable, fair and independent funding.

Updates

22 Oct 2018 : On 18 October 2018, Verkhovna Rada passed the draft State Budget for 2019 in the first reading. According to this draft, the Parliament voted to reduce the 2019 budget of UA-PBC by 45% compared to the level defined by Ukraine’s audio-visual law. This will provide a budget in 2019 for the public broadcaster of ‎a little bit more of 1 billion of UAH, against the amount of ‎1.816.933.000 UAH needed for its proper functioning. UA-PBC management has launched an appeal to the public and to the international partners to protest and to ask to government and majority in the Parliament to respect the rules and provide the necessary funding to the public broadcaster. The underfunding of the company in 2018, led to accumulating debts of the UA-PBC and resulted in the switching of the analogue broadcasting of the TV channel throughout the country. If adopted in its current form, the budget of the UA-PSB risks putting the company on the verge of bankruptcy. The coalition of Ukrainian NGOs “Reanimation Package of Reforms” called on the authorities to stop financial pressure on the public broadcaster.
27 Sep 2018 : On 25 September 2018, the state-owned Broadcasting, Radio communications and Television Concern (BRT) suspended broadcasts of the public TV channel UA-Pershyi over the debts. The TV channel’s signal was cut off across the country. The state budget approved by the Ukrainian parliament in 2018 has no funds to cover payment of public TV broadcasts, leading to the growth of company debts to BRT to 75 million Ukrainian hryvnia. The leadership of the TV channel appealed to its staff, asking them to go on unpaid leave, due to the budget under-financing. The European Broadcasting Union and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media have called on the Ukrainian authorities to restore transmissions immediately and urgently address the funding problems.
05 Jul 2018 : On 18 June 2018, Ukraine's public TV channel UA:Pershyi was taken off the air because of the unpaid debts.The public radio broadcasting and TV operator has now suspended the analogue broadcasting of UA: Pershyi in several cities, including Kyiv, Vinnytsya, Dnipro, Odesa, Ternopil, and Chernihiv, since the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine failed to pay some $2.8 million for transmission services. The transmission is still available in digital format as well as online and on cable networks. For 2018, the state budget of Ukraine allotted only Hr 776.5 million ($29.5 million) for financing the national public broadcaster, which is less than half the amount guaranteed by law and funds for transmission services have not been allotted at all since April 2018. According to the law, public broadcaster is to receive annual funds equivalent to 0.2 percent of the state budget. At the deadline of 1 July 2018 the Government has not provided an alternative solution for the financing of the public service in Ukraine.

State replies

18 Dec 2017 : Reply from the Government of Ukraine

Follow-ups

27 Sep 2018 : OSCE Representative calls on Ukrainian authorities to reinstate broadcasts by public service broadcaster UA:PBC and urgently resolve funding problems .
20 Sep 2017 : The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights details the prerequisites for well-funded and strong public service media.

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

20 Sep 2017 : Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on public service media governance (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 February 2012 at the 1134th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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