Reporters Without Borders

Digital TV frequency allocation deals blow to media pluralism and independence

Digital TV frequency allocation deals blow to media pluralism and independence

Published on Thursday 25 August 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders has written an open letter to Volodymyr Manzhosov, the head of the National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting, questioning last week’s controversial allocation of digital TV frequencies and calling for a fairer and more transparent allocation.

"Dear Mr. Manzhosov,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that defends freedom of information, would like to draw your attention to the plight of many of Ukraine’s regional and national TV stations following the announcement by the National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting on 16, 17 and 18 August of the results of the bidding for digital TV frequencies.

We are concerned about the results of the bidding because the principles of media independence and pluralism, which are guaranteed by article 34 of the Ukrainian constitution, do not seem to have been respected. If not changed, the results will not bode well for the country’s media. Disguised censorship by means of biased allocation of frequencies would have disastrous consequences for freedom of expression in Ukraine.

The criteria for allocating frequencies were unclear. Recognized regional TV stations with a long-standing presence in their respective regions and many viewers, such as 9 Kanal, Chornomorska TV, ZIK, 3 Studia, Mist TV and Rivne-1, have been denied digital frequencies. At the same time, five stations – Partner TV Ltd, Vybir TV Ltd, Novy Format TV Ltd, Ariadna TV Ltd and Lider TV Ltd – were awarded an overwhelming majority of frequencies in all Oblasts of Ukraine although they were created just before the bidding and are all based in Kiev.

The criteria used to allocate frequencies at the national level also need to be clarified. The results released on 18 August raise concerns about media independence as most of the frequencies were allocated to TV stations that are known to support the government.

The exclusion of many TV stations from digital broadcasting represents a serious attack on media pluralism in Ukraine. Hit by the loss of advertising revenue, many of them could be forced to close for lack of resources.

Our organization adds its voice to those that have already been raised to demand a fairer and more transparent allocation of digital TV frequencies, one that respects the European Convention on Human Rights and other international agreements that have been ratified by your country.

We thank you in advance for the importance you attach to our request.

Sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard, Secretary-General"

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