Ukraine warns Russian webs

Stations not following rules, says Council

MOSCOW — Russian television stations broadcasting on Ukrainian cable services have been warned to adhere to local airtime rules or face restrictions as tensions rise in the run up to the snap parliamentary elections scheduled for early December.

Ukraine’s national council for television and radio broadcasting says stations that include state broadcasters Channel One, RTR Planet and TVCI (the international service of Moscow’s TV Tsentr) and commercial broadcaster Ren TV are failing to observe local advertising and broadcast rules introduced two years ago.

Infringements identified by the council include failure to pay local advertising levies and partisan discussion of political issues during news broadcasts at election times, contrary to strict rules on balanced political coverage.

Local rules defining how far broadcasters can push ‘public morals’ are also not being followed, the council says.

It warns that Russian stations airing on Ukrainian cable providers that do not clean up their act by November 1 could be pulled off air.

“Broadcasters in Ukraine are required to observe about 20 laws, but at the same time we see a situation where foreign companies are working in the market who hardly fulfill any of the requirements,” broadcasting council head Vitaly Shevchenko told Russian daily broadsheet Kommersant, Friday. (Oct. 17)

Russian stations have been urged to bring their broadcasts into line with the rules for the past two years. Failure to do so has already lead to Russian stations being dropped by cable providers in western, largely Ukrainian speaking parts of the country.

Russian broadcast executives say there has been no official demand from Ukrainian authorities to comply with the new rules.

Andrei Bystritsky, deputy head of Russian state media holding VGTRK, who overseas its international operations, told Kommersant that he was at a loss to explain the Ukrainian position.

The broadcaster accepted and understood the need to abide by local rules and had never been presented with any “serious claim” by the Ukrainian broadcast council that it was doing anything wrong, he said.

Tensions have been rising over the presence of Russian media in Ukraine for some time; the country is divided linguistically between a Ukrainian speaking western half and the industrial east, largely populated by Russian speakers.

There have been tensions between Moscow and Kiev over Ukraine’s plans for closer ties with Europe and NATO.

With a critical snap parliamentary election called in an attempt to break the political deadlock, the role of Russian media is under the spotlight.

The news broke the same day that Russian journalist Yevgeny Kiselev was named head of a new Ukrainian television channel TVI.

The Ukrainian language channel is owned by dissident Russian oligarch Vladimir Gusinksy who fled Russia for Israel six years ago following a clash with the Kremlin that cost him his Moscow-based station TVS.

In the 1990s Kiselev was a prominent broadcaster in Russia whose weekly current affairs show “Itogi” had a reputation for being highly critical of the Kremlin.

Russian television today is far from critical of the Kremlin, having been curbed by a wave of restrictive laws during the two terms Vladimir Putin was president.