Just a few months ago, Hromadske.tv was a fledgling Ukrainian online TV channel broadcasting to a fairly small audience of people with high-speed Internet connections and the will to actively seek out objective news, amid an environment increasingly hostile to independent viewpoints. On February 26, Hromadske.tv launched prime-time broadcasting to a national audience on one of the country’s most-viewed TV channels, First National.
The speed with which events have unfolded in Kyiv over the past week—the signing of a compromise between the government and opposition leaders, the rejection of that agreement by protesters on the Maidan, the flight of former President Yanukovych from the capital and the passage of a series of parliamentary decrees granting power to new acting leaders—resulted in an equally quick reversal of fortunes for formerly marginalized media like Hromadske.tv.
The channel was formed in June 2013 by a group of journalists who had resigned from their posts at another channel, TVi, when its ownership changed abruptly and, with it, the station’s formerly independent editorial policy. They envisioned Hromadske.tv as a precursor to a genuine public broadcaster, the creation of which had been stalled in Parliament for years. They sought to create a channel that would air objective and unbiased journalism and serve the public interest. Internews has been advising Hromadske.tv’s managers and journalists since the channel’s launch and will soon begin supporting their investigative journalism efforts.
Hromadske.tv’s first broadcast took place on Nov. 22, just one day after former President Yanukovych’s surprise announcement that he would not sign the long-awaited Association Agreement with the EU and would turn to Russia for a loan instead. The announcement set off the three months of street protests that culminated in Yanukovych’s departure from Kyiv on Feb. 21.
First National channel will broadcast Hromadske.tv’s news and social programming content for seven hours a day spread out over three blocks, including during primetime, 7:00-10:00 pm. The arrangement is temporary: Hromadske.tv hopes that creation of a full-fledged public service broadcaster may now become a reality in Ukraine and has made several recommendations for steps that Parliament must take in order to bring it to fruition.
Internews’ work in Ukraine is supported by USAID.