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EBU urges the Ukrainian Government to fund UA:PBC properly

The EBU is alarmed by the “possible underfunding” of UA:PBC, Ukraine’s public broadcaster, as the broadcaster itself issued a statement expressing concern about its 2018 budget. This issue could also have an impact on Ukraine’s participation to Eurovision.

A cut in the official state budget

Ukraine’s government, like in most countries, defines its annual budget a few months before the year in question. The Budget Law for 2018 raised concern about the dwindling budget allocated to UA:PBC, with a funding of only €40 million (£35,4m or $47,8m). According to the EBU, it is one of the smallest budget in Europe, considering that some public broadcasters have bigger allocations yet cover smaller areas.

The first official concerns came from a statement by UA:PBC’s management board on September 18th. The statement warned about how a weak budget could threaten the service’s quality and independence. Those concerns are not recent, though, as the same situation happened last year. At the time, Zurab Alasania, then-Director General of UA:PBC, resigned in an open disagreement with the budget allocated for 2017.

European concerns about independence and freedom

The statement from UA:PBC didn’t fall on deaf ears. The EBU issued its own statement the day after. The EBU’s mission is “making public service indispensable”, according to their website, hence their reaction and involvement in this case. The recently appointed Director General of the EBU, Noel Curran, said :

The EBU calls on the Ukrainian Government to ensure appropriate, fair and independent funding for UA:PBC in line with the Ukrainian Law and European standards. A sudden drop in its funding levels would undermine the important process of reform UA:PBC has undertaken in order to operate as a sustainable and independent public service media organization.

While the statement only talks of “independence”, it is part of the “Media Freedom” category on the EBU website. And that’s not all : the underfunding of UA:PBC has been denounced on the “Protection and Safety of Journalism” platform of the Council of Europe (COE). This platform is part of the official COE’s website, and references “alerts” on media freedom in member States of the COE. This goes from intimidation of journalists to State censorship. The platform also allows member States to reply to alerts concerning them, especially when they are directly accused. Maybe Ukraine’s government will justify its decision?

A possible issue for Eurovision?

Could this funding issue also have an impact on Ukraine in Eurovision? We don’t think it will on the participation itself: Ukraine’s participation has already been confirmed. UA:PBC could decide to withdraw for financial reasons, but the participation fee is calculated with each broadcaster’s finances in mind.

The underfunding could still have an impact on the more “optional” spending. That includes staging and promotion, but also the National Selection. And let’s not forget that Ukraine has just hosted an expensive Eurovision Song Contest, with many problems arising along the way. UA:PBC is not ready to host again, especially with downsized funding.

With that in mind, one could fear an internal selection for the 2018 contest, to choose a song with no chance of winning.

What do you think? Will the cut affect Ukraine’s participation to Eurovision 2018? What could the EBU or UA:PBC do to resolve the problem and get proper funding? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on social media at @ESCXTRA

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