National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC)

National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC) is Ukraine’s flagship public broadcaster. It has operated under its current statute and name since 2017, airing today two nationwide television channels and three national radio stations as well as a network of regional radio and television broadcasters.

Before it became UA:PBC, the company operated as National Television Company of Ukraine (NTU), a state-run broadcaster. The beginning of broadcasting in Ukraine goes back to 1924 when radio broadcasting was launched in the country, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. The company’s television service was launched later in 1965.

Media assets

Television: National- UA:First, UA:Kultura; Regional– UA:Crimea, UA:Cherkasy, UA:Chernihiv, UA:Bukovyna, UA:Donbass, UA:Dnipro, UA:Karpaty, UA:Kharkiv, UA:Kherson, UA:Podillya, UA:Kiev, UA:Kropyvnytskyi, UA:Lviv, UA:Mykolaiv, UA:Odessa, UA:Poltava, UA:Rivne, UA:Sumy, UA:Ternopil, UA:Vinntysa, UA:Volyn, UA:Zakarpattia, UA:Zaporizhia, UA:Zhytomyr

Radio: UA:Ukrainian Radio, UA:Radio Promin, UA:Radio Culture, Radio Ukraine International

State Media Matrix Typology: Independent State-Funded and State-Managed (ISFM)

Ownership and governance

UA:PBC was created through the Public Television and Radio Law of 2014 as a public joint-stock company whose shares belong 100% to the state.

The highest governing structure at UA:PBC is the Supervisory Board of the company. Initially, it consisted of 17 members, eight of whom represented all political groups in Parliament and nine were proposed by civil society organizations. The composition of the board has been changed in the meantime. Today, the board has 12 members, seven of whom are proposed by civil society organizations and five are proposed by all main political groups in Parliament. This governance formula (high representation of civil society groups and diverse political representation of parties both in power and opposition) is meant to ensure political independence of the broadcaster.

Source of funding and budget

According to the Law on Public Television and Radio of 2014 (later amended), UA:PBC was supposed to be financed solely through state funds for a period of four years (2015-2018). After 2018, the broadcaster was allowed to also generate revenues on its own through sales of radio and television programs, fees for the use of copyrights or license fees for various services provided by UA:PBC. However, to date, the majority of the UA:PBC’s budget is covered by a state subsidy. For legal reasons, UA:PBC started broadcasting in 2017, three years after the adoption of the law.

The law also stipulated that the state should ensure that UA:PBC receives every year a subsidy that is not lower than 0.2% of the total central budget of the state for the previous year. This legal provision was meant to ensure financial stability for the station and reduce the space for government meddling.

However, since it launched operations in 2017, UA:PBC never received the minimum amount stipulated by the law as every year state authorities, citing emergencies and newly emerged priorities, adopted new legal provisions that allowed the government to cut the due UA:PBC budget.

For 2020, the state allocated a total of UAH 1.7bn (US$ 59.5m) to UA:PBC, which was a fall of some UAH 300m than stipulated by law. The sum allocated by the government in 2020 accounted for nearly 95% of the broadcaster’s budget. Since the war started in Ukraine, the situation has not changed at all, UA:PBC receiving most of its funds from the government. However, the government increased its contribution. In 2021, UA:PBC received some UAH 1.87bn (US$ 63.1m) from the government, which represented about 82% of the legal requirement, according to data collected by IREX.

Editorial independence

The reorganization of the state media in Ukraine that led to the establishment of UA:PBC in 2014 has been anchored in the need to build an independent broadcaster able to fulfil a public service mission. Hence, editorial independence was put at the heart of the newly created broadcaster. A raft of guidelines and provisions have thus been adopted to ensure this independence, as shown below.

In spite of all these guarantees though, UA:PBC has not been spared attacks by politicians and state authorities, many of whom could hardly accept the full independence of the station. Nonetheless, the station has thus far managed to stave off most of these attacks and preserve its editorial independence. For example, legal provisions that were meant to force UA:PBC to give broadcast space to local politicians were fought off until they were scrapped. The dismissal by the board of the UA:PBC’s CEO, Zurab Alasania, in 2019, was reversed in court, and Alasania, an incisive political journalist, came back to the helm of the station. Moreover, the broadcaster hosts some of the most critical journalistic programs in Ukraine.

With all this in mind, it is fair to say that at the moment UA:PBC can be considered an editorially independent media outlet, even more so in the context of the Ukrainian war.

There are several statutes and mechanisms in place that were created to guarantee the editorial independence of UA:PBC and most of them seemed to have worked to date. One of them is the Law on Public Television and Radio that prohibits any external entity from intruding into the editorial independence of the station and that clearly states that the broadcaster is not obliged to cover state officials and authorities. The broadcaster also adopted in 2018 its own Editorial Charter, which spells out a series of editorial rules aimed at ensuring a high-quality, independent editorial coverage.

The Law on Public Television and Radio created the Editorial Board of UA:PBC, a body that is in charge of independently assessing the editorial performance of the station, making recommendations to the management for improvements. This board consists of 15 members, five appointed by the UA:PBC Supervisory Board, five by the company’s editorial team and five by the editorial boards of all the regional broadcasters run by UA:PBC, a system that ensures pluralism and diversity.

September 2023