Спеціальні потреби

Journalists question relevancy of Ukraine's United TV Marathon


FILE — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Donetsk region of Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2023. Journalists are starting to question whether the United TV Marathon, which offers 24/7 coverage of the war in Ukraine, still offers value. Zelenskyy was recently asked about its relevancy.
FILE — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Donetsk region of Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2023. Journalists are starting to question whether the United TV Marathon, which offers 24/7 coverage of the war in Ukraine, still offers value. Zelenskyy was recently asked about its relevancy.

For nearly two years, some of Ukraine's largest broadcasters have worked together under the United TV Marathon.

But as the fight against Russia's full-scale invasion enters its third year, critics are questioning the usefulness and multimillion-dollar budget that goes into the broadcast.

Formed in February 2022, the coalition of six major broadcasters produces 24/7 coverage during the war. Each broadcaster — Suspilne, 1+1, Starlight Media, Media Group Ukraine, Inter Media Group, and the parliamentary Rada TV Channel — airs content for a set number of hours, with prime-time slots rotating between stations.

See related video by Cristina Caicedo Smit:

From UN Headquarters, Ukraine Journalist Keeps Audiences Informed
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:55 0:00

When the Marathon — as the united broadcaster is called — was first announced, Ukraine's Ministry of Culture and Information Policy said the broadcasts were needed to consolidate resources and provide round-the-clock information objectively and promptly from across the country.

But journalists are starting to question whether the Marathon still offers value. Its relevancy was among the questions presented to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a press conference in late December.

A journalist from Life magazine noted that viewership is low and asked Zelenskyy's press secretary why the state allocates large sums to support it.

The state budget for 2024 allocates more than $45 million for the Marathon, along with the production of TV programming.

The Marathon restricts certain freedoms of journalists, said Iryna Sampan, a freelancer who works with outlets including Hromadske Radio and the Butusov Plus YouTube channel.

"It is possible to work freely and independently, but basically everything rests on the United Marathon," Sampan said. "The journalists themselves are already saying that it is not needed in the second year of the war."

She added that research showed the Marathon is "no longer needed. It has exhausted itself."

But Orest Drymalovsky, a TV presenter at Marathon member Starlight Media, defended the production.

"The Marathon played a very important role at the beginning of the Russian invasion, in the first days when chaos — people are running, lack of information, Russian PSYOPs, a lot of fakes," said Drymalovsky, host of the program "Vikna."

"Broadcasting was not interrupted," he said. "It was not possible to hack our system."

With the war in its second year, "we are doing important things," Drymalovsky said. "We can look at the information and coverage of events at the front. There are certain specifics that we can exhibit so as not to harm our defense force."

'Necessary' at the start

Otar Dovzhenko, an expert at the nongovernmental Lviv Media Forum and chair of the Independent Media Council, agrees that in the early months, the Marathon was "relevant and necessary."

At the start of the full invasion, the Marathon "was seen as an effective tool for countering disinformation, a central official source of information that could replace people's less reliable sources," Dovzhenko said.

But "by the summer of 2022, the situation stabilized, and the need for the Marathon disappeared," he said.

Criticism of the broadcasts are less focused on the budget it takes to sustain it, and more that it is now seen as ineffective, Dovzhenko said, adding that some in the media "see it as a tool with which the government tries to influence society."

Ukraine's Ministry of Culture and Information Policy did not respond to VOA's request for comment.

Some media outlets are excluded from the Marathon. Neither 5 Kanal nor Priamyi, which are associated with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, nor the opposition Espreso TV channel, are part of the Marathon.

Ukraine also took steps to close or sanction outlets with Russian affiliations.

In 2021, Zelenskyy signed a decree sanctioning ZIK, NewsOne and 112 Ukraine — three television stations believed to be affiliated with pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk.

Olha Bereziuk, a journalist at the English-language news website Gordon, said she believes the closure of media from Medvedchuk's circle "is a step that provides security and protects the information space."

But, she said, "There are doubts about the control of the opposition media, in particular from Poroshenko's circle. I don't know if they will be represented and in what quantity. But it is felt that they need to allocate a little more airtime, and the Marathon itself is a little questionable about its existence, its purpose and its financing."

In a study published in August by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, half of the respondents said they did not watch the Marathon, and only 13% said they watched regularly. Of those who did watch, only 14% said they had complete trust in the information.

Відео - найголовніше

Луганська філармонія у Львові. Відео
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:07:48 0:00
XS
SM
MD
LG