Ukraine’s UT-1: Transitioning a State Broadcaster to a Public Service Broadcaster

Josh Machleder, Internews Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and Asia Programs, and Simone Otus Coxe, Internews Board Member are traveling in Ukraine, visiting Internews projects and sending updates on the work of local media and civil society in-country.

The handwritten message on the whiteboard at the elevator bank at UT-1, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, is from Director General Zurab Alasania, thanking those staffers who took an eight day leave without pay, to help make up the shortfall in the broadcaster’s budget.

A budget shortfall, however, isn’t slowing down Alasania’s drive to transition this rigid relic of a state broadcaster into a popular public broadcaster.

Alasania, only seven months into this job, is a graduate of Internews trainings many years earlier, and formerly a manager of a TV station in Kharkiv, Ukraine. In his short tenure, Alasania has brought the TV station from 14th to 11th place in ratings, and he doesn’t want to stop there.

This is the moment to make change, he says, and to create a quality public broadcaster. He’s got the support of the media community and the public. And while Ukraine’s new government isn’t exactly helping in the effort, it’s a dramatic change from the climate around past efforts to create a public service broadcaster. “They’re not hindering us in our persistence,” said Alasania.

With limited resources, he has launched new and innovative programming, such as Persha Studio  (First Studio) in which experts come to the studio to interview politicians on a critical topic to Ukrainian society, and an Internews-supported program called Persha Shpalta (Front Page) which covers the economic issues of the day and closes each edition with a segment by two well-known satirists.

Internews will be working with UT1 closely in the coming weeks to produce the candidate debates for the October Parliamentary Elections.