Kyiv Media Week: Where is public broadcasting heading?

Future issues facing the media industry was a focus of this year's Kyiv Media Week conference in Ukraine. Kyryl Savin, DW Akademie's country manager for Ukraine, hosted a discussion round on the future of public media.

Every year more than a thousand participants from 35 countries get together at the Kyiv Media Week to discuss innovations in the media industry.

DW Akademie hosted a discussion on the role and challenges facing European media outlets, with a special focus on the future of public broadcasters.

Discussion host, Kyryl Savin, DW Akademie's country manager for Ukraine, was joined by Zurab Alasania, director general of Ukraine's state broadcaster UA:PBC, and Andreas Weise, journalist and senior news reporter for the German public television channel, ZDF.

Building trust in public broadcasters

"In this so-called post-factual world, many public broadcasters find that their audiences are becoming increasingly wary, that people fear information is being manipulated or influenced by the state," said Savin.

Media | 06.09.2018

Kyryl Savin, DW Akademie's country manager for Ukraine

This poses a bigger problem in Ukraine than it does in Germany, he pointed out, saying that in Germany, public broadcasters and to a large extent private stations are well-established. In Ukraine, however, this is still a new field and "many people find it confusing and have become skeptical," he said.

That's why it's extremely important to build people's trust in the content produced by public broadcasters, Savin believes. "This isn't about competing for ratings," he said, "but about becoming a reliable source of information."

"It's clear that public broadcasters do not have as many entertainment programs, Hollywood films or bizarre shows as private stations do, but people in Germany do appreciate the quality of public broadcasting," he said. "There are high-quality formats, news, political analyses and sport. In Ukraine it will take time for this to develop."

The challenge: Attracting a young audience

Looking ahead, many European media companies are trying to win (back) young audiences. The German public TV channel, ZDF, Savin pointed out, has long been testing new formats, and that Ukrainian media outlets are keen to experiment, as well.

Zurab Alasania, director general of the Ukrainian state broadcaster, UA:PBC, (left) and Andreas Weise, journalist and senior news reporter for the German public broadcaster, ZDF

"Public broadcasters here are constantly trying out new formats because they're unhappy with their market share," he said. "They want to expand, appeal to a young audience and take a different approach."

Zurab Alasania, director general of Ukraine's state broadcaster UA:PBC, said he wanted to reach young people with the channels they use. Having a presence on social media was important, he said, adding that he was also interested in the potential of gamification that uses game elements to encourage user participation in activities not related to games.

Assuring long term quality

DW Akademie is advising Ukraine's UA:PBC in its organizational reform process to become a public broadcaster, and is supporting the development of a public media academy for the training of journalists.

"Still, you can't just apply the German experience to the Ukrainian one," said Savin. "You have to take the local context and specifics into account."

A new and large cross-media news house is currently being built in Kyiv and "will offer entirely new possibilities for news production – initially in terms of technology but later for also training staff," Savin said. "We think this will lead to even higher quality, not just for television but for radio and social media as well."

The discussion was part of a project supporting public broadcasting in Ukraine,  funded by the European Union and Germany's Federal Foreign Office. DW Akademie is working together with BBC Media Action and NIRAS  to support the transition of Ukraine's state broadcaster, UA:PBC, to a public broadcaster. A cross-media news house for the state broadcaster is also being built.