General overview/The main trends
Grass-root activities and the good cases, several local & international players involved but still no legal recognition of community media. This is situation in Ukraine as we see it now. And it is going to be changed according to EU-Ukraine Association Agreement – Ukraine has to implement the European regulations on Audiovisual Services (AVS). And, as a part of this new legislation framework, to establish a community media sector. About 240 municipal TV/Radio outlets will face the procedure of «destatisation»: now they are owned by state agencies/local authorities but need to become public, private/commercial or, probably, community media. And we hope the Association (Ukrainian Community Media Forum) we started last year could be a good platform for community activists to get success.
Last years the Ukrainian society has come a long way in creating civic institutions. The level of trust/distrust to “volunteers” is one of the highest among the population (65%, fall 2019). But at the same time, the level of personal volunteering, involvement in the activities of non-profit organizations is about 18% only. I do Trust, but do not support.
This is partly due to the high level of poverty in the country. But it also depends on a high level of distrust, the stratification of society. And this has a direct connection with the development of media, in particular the community media.
The Ukrainian media market has its own specificities. National-wide networks belong to the “oligarchs” – politicians with multi-million-dollar businesses or businessmen who influence politics. For them, media is a mandatory part of ensuring influence, and not a way of making money, they are ready to invest EUR 50-100 Mil a year in subsidies for their own media.
Public television and radio are still undergoing a transformation from state broadcaster, its rating positions are very low.
But even in small towns, control over local media has become “mandatory” for a number of politicians or businesses.
It seems a circle of mistrust: the audience is addicted to consuming content free of charge – any independent media structure loses competition or needs to seek subsidies – the audience is confident that the interests of business or politics are behind any media.
Community media could become the “spaces of trust” because of citizens engagement based on principles of Transparency and Trust. Engagement in consumption of personal relevant trusted content. Engagement in creation of such content. Participation in organizational and financial life of your community media is the tool that could help you with your neighbours jointly solve your problems. And here we are very interested in the experience of other countries.
Almost a year ago, we organized the Ukraine’s First Community Media Forum. It was highly important that all stakeholders joined the organization and participation: representatives of Parliament, Government, the National Regulator. The event was supported by German Foreign Ministry and the Council of Europe/EU program. Local community activists from all Ukrainian regions listened to the CMFE experts (thanks, Birgitte, Steven and Urszula, it was brilliant!). Forum declared to establish Ukraine’s Community Media Association and join the European umbrella. It was a good start. It was hoped that the launch of a new media sector was a matter of the coming months.
In the next 2 months the main stakeholders signed a Public Letter to the Prime Minister on the legislation framework concerning AVS and EU-Ukraine Association Agreement (according to the Agreement, Ukraine should implement EU-norms till August, 2019).
Parliament prepared and agreed with all stakeholders on the bill.
But Ukraine entered a long electoral period: presidential and then to the Parliament. The legislation still has not been adopted.
There is a term in project management – “waterfall” type of project. You have a long preparation process and then a quick launch. Our strategy consists of 4 interrelated areas:
– capacity building of community media and their activists,
– community building,
– public / target audiences awareness.
We now have all the documents to register the Community Media Association once new AVS legislation is adopted. We work with MPs and the Government to implement the progressive legislation framework. We have more than 100 trained leaders. We inform business associations about the importance of CSR development through the support of community media. And we participate in various public events to inform a wide audience (through national media and specific publications). It looks like we are in few steps to launch!
Now all the stakeholders need to re-negotiate their coordination. Unfortunately, we see the powerful international organizations with CM-development components in their Ukrainian projects competing with colleagues instead of cooperation. We see the political persons who are ready to ignore the logics and even the common sense – but not to have the names of political opponents among the bill’s authors. Our main challenge for now is how to make the steps we need. And now I have the right audience to talk with.
I write this short overview for members of CMFE in different countries.
We ask you to look at Ukrainian situation and join to our local movement to make it real. Look at the possibilities to share your country’s experience. Or to arrange the networking activities with some community media in Ukraine. Or just like this article – international coverage could also help us to rise the interest to Community Media.
Our communities are much more connected than we could imagine. Because first of all, we are the Community of Humans.
By Pavlo Novikov, journalist, media-consultant, chairman of the Board at monitoring nonprofit
organization Charity Tuner