Will Ukrainians watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup? Dilemma for Ukraine’s Public Broadcaster

Photo: 112.ua 

Hybrid War

Edited by: Michael Garrood

The FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia has put the Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine in a difficult situation. Whether it chooses to broadcast the World Cup or not, the public broadcaster will face a barrage of criticism. There are those who realize the danger of Russian propaganda during the event, while others simply adore football. Also, non-fulfillment of obligations towards the European Broadcasting Union will have negative consequences too. Zurab Alasania, head of the public broadcaster’s managing board, gave Euromaidan Press the details in an exclusive interview.

According to Alasania, events of this size have always been broadcast by the country’s First National Channel, the predecessor to the whole Ukrainian Public Broadcasting Channel. Also, the channel could have shared it by selling a sublicense.

“I can predict for sure how this championship will be broadcast in Russia. To show in Ukraine for a whole month what is going on in the aggressor country is unacceptable according to the law. On the other hand, people tell me ‘Are you stupid? Sport is outside of politics.’ But nothing in this world is outside of politics. And it will be heavily politicized in Russia, it will be enormous propaganda. We know the moods of their stands and what posters we will see there. We know all the advertising on boards at the stadiums and how Russia will use it. So what should we do? One half of the country will condemn us if we show it and the other half will condemn us if we don’t,” said Alasania.

So far he sees no solution to the situation.

“We acquired the license in 2010. Now I can’t sell it on the market. Ukrainian channels understand what it is about and do not want to broadcast it. To broadcast it here is to bury the reputation of the public broadcaster for a long time. Not to show it means facing the hatred of half of the country.”

The Head of the Public Broadcaster also recognizes additional problems related to obligations to the European Broadcasting Union.

“If we do not show it, the European Broadcasting Union will say ‘Are you playing games here? Sport is outside of politics! You acquired the license — pay for it.’ And then the state will ask me what it was that I paid for. If I have paid and not broadcast it, where is the money? And for that I can be imprisoned for 5-7 years. Also, there will be fines from the European Broadcasting Union because the agreement says that we have to cover certain territory.  And the territory is quite big.”

Ukraine pledged to establish public broadcasting to the Council of Europe and in terms of the Association agreement with the EU. An independent, impartial broadcaster is crucially needed especially in Ukraine, where the main TV channels are controlled by rivaling political and financial powers. The law on the creation of the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine was adopted in 2014. The company started working full-scale in 2017 and already faces the pressure from the state – for the next year, the government plans to cut its funding by nearly a half.


Edited by: Michael Garrood

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