Monday, February 14, 2011

Ukrainians against the TV

Ukrainians are increasingly choosing to switch off their television, reports [UKR] weekly magazine Ukrainskyi Tyzhden. The list of their reasons continues to grow, too. For instance, it includes:
  1. Internet offering a lot more than TV
  2. TV programs being too primitive
  3. Russification of Ukrainian television
  4. Lack of time
  5.  Desire to protest or demonstrate non-conformism
  6. Religious beliefs 
  7. Perception of television as an “entertainment of the unhappy”

I must admit that I never liked our TV too much, and that I don’t mind Ukrainians switching it off, because it really is primitive, and Internet does offer a lot more. I also strongly relate to the reason number three.

When living in Moscow between 2007 and late 2010, I've gotten closely acquainted with that mix of criminal series, celebrity scandals, pre-moderated talk shows, and government-produced “news” that, unfortunately, has come to dominate today's Russian television. I should add that not all of the TV was bad. After all, there were channels like Kutlura [RUS], covering arts, culture and history quite nicely. But Russian television has launched an active anti-Ukrainian propaganda, allowing itself to declare, among other things, that a fully independent Ukrainian state should not exist, that the Ukrainian language and nation were invented by westerners to divide the “Russian peoples”, and that the collapse of the Soviet Union was “20th century's greatest tragedy”. As a result, in the recent years even the Russian-speaking Ukrainians that traditionally relied on information coming from Moscow have been switching to national news sources.

Ironically, after leaving Moscow in October 2010, I returned to Ukraine only to discover that our television increasingly resembled that of Russia’s, and not in a good way. Most Ukrainian channels were now broadcasting neighbor's grim criminal films and mind numbing soap operas, endless comedy shows, and even programs with anti-Ukrainian propaganda. In the words of our former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, not only the Ukrainian language has disappeared from TV channels, but "Ukraine has disappeared", too.

Along with the Russification of television came increased media censorship. According to the Ukrainian media watchdog Telekritika, only two TV channels would still provide independent and fair news coverage – Channel 5 and TVi. Sadly, those two channels have just been stripped off some of their broadcasting frequencies by a recent court ruling, which further cramped their already limited audience.

I must admit that with major channels showing low-quality Russian programs and broadcasting one-sided news, I like our TV even less. And I would not mind most (if not all) Ukrainians switching it off. At least for now. 

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