Ukraine: The revolution will be televised

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Ukraine: The revolution will be televised

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“Hromadske TV” — this means public, socially responsible TV in Ukrainian. The channel launched several days before the end of November when central Kyiv filled with protesters. Around 30 journalists became a voice of revolution. From the start, Hromadske ran coverage of the unrest ‘round the clock, while pro-government outlets did not.

Natalia Gumenyuk, journalist and presenter, said: “We wanted an independent station based on the principles of public television as it is in the UK and Germany. There was no socially responsible TV channel in Ukraine, but the Internet gave us an opportunity to create it. So we started as volunteers.”

Mustafa Nayyem, journalist and presenter, said: “When we launched our broadcasting on Internet, the Ukrainian media market was missing something. Ukrainian viewers weren’t always getting adequate information about what was going on. The information wasn’t right here and right now. No channel actually showed what was happening.”

A lot of Hromadske are people who work at big private TV companies and who go public on their days off. Video quality came second to breaking news and connecting with viewers.

Nayyem said: “There were more than half a million viewers on the night riot police broke up a peaceful rally for the first time.” says it now has more than 210,000 subscribers on YouTube and more than 85,000 Facebook followers. It says Ukrainians donated the equivalent of more than 15 million euros through online crowdfunding. The rest of its budget comes from international donors — NGOs and the US embassy.

Gumenyuk said: “Our independent media should avoid the mistake made after the 2004 Orange Revolution. That time, journalists fell in love with the opposition and kept silent for a long time. But we continue to be critical of the new government. We are the tool that should represent people and make the authorities accountable.”

Every upswell in Maidan increased Hromadske audience.

Oksana Romanyuk, with Reporters Without Borders in Ukraine, said the foundation of socially responsible media such as Hromadske was evidence of civil society and a new quality of journalism.

Romanyuk said: “During the last three months, the Ukrainian media sphere was extremely polarised. There was coverage of events made by independent TV channels and there was a group of pro-government channels, which manipulated information. Now they are responsible for what happened in Kyiv. Pro-government journalists must share the blame.”

Last week, Kyiv’s new authorities offered Hromadske six hours a day on the state grid, expanding its reach from the Web to terrestrial.