EBU intervenes over Ukrainian public broadcaster’s frozen accounts

Daria Bilodid (white) of Ukraine will be going for judo gold at Tokyo 2020 (by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

The European Broadcasting Union, the consortium of the continent’s public-service broadcasters, has moved to intervene in the financial struggles encountered by UA:PBC, the national broadcaster in Ukraine.

In a statement, the EBU has warned that the future of its member broadcaster is being threatened by calls for it to settle debts racked up by its predecessor.

UA:PBC launched in January 2017, replacing the erstwhile state broadcaster NTU. According to UA:PBC, its accounts were frozen on February 18 as a consequence of the executive proceedings of the Ministry of Justice relating to the collection of an “old debt” to pay-television news channel Euronews amounting to over €10m ($11.1m).

The EBU said: “Freezing the accounts of UA:PBC has meant payment of staff salaries and other financial obligations have been suspended. Moreover, UA:PBC will be unable to prepare for the broadcast of major sporting and cultural events such as the Olympic Games, Eurovision Song Contest 2020 and other important international projects that help inform Ukrainian society.

“We believe the unsettled debts of the previous state broadcaster should not burden the newly established public-service organisation that is governed by a democratically elected institution and functions in a completely different environment. The debt should be settled by the state, which is the founder of the broadcaster.”

UA:PBC holds rights to the 2020 summer Olympic Games under a sublicensing deal with media group Discovery.

EBU director general Noel Curran added: “UA:PBC is the youngest public broadcaster in Europe and needs to be cherished and supported by the state at a time when it is making substantial efforts to inform, educate and bring society together around its own national identity, history, culture and traditions.

“I hope, that the Ukrainian authorities will find a way to settle the debt and enable UA:PBC to serve its important remit in society.”

In September 2018, the EBU said it was “extremely concerned about the future of public service media in Ukraine” after analogue distribution of UA:PBC was terminated.

At the time, Curran said: “We are dismayed that the authorities have taken the decision to deprive the Ukrainian people of this important public service. We urge the authorities to restore transmissions immediately and allocate the necessary funding to allow public service media to fulfil its critical role to society and to democracy in Ukraine.”