The discussion on the coverage of events for the 1030th anniversary of Christianization of Kievan Rus’ by the public broadcaster is not just a discussion about whether or not these events should be covered. For me, it’s a discussion about what topics the public broadcaster, and first of all UA:First, considers socially important, with what it will fill the air. This is a very important discussion if we take into account all the contexts in which Ukraine lives today, as well as in 2019, which, obviously for everyone, will be very turbulent.
Firstly, about the coverage of activities for the 1030th anniversary of Kievan Rus’ Baptism Day
Events on this occasion lasted almost all week. Although, on July 24 (Tuesday), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) held its prayer and its procession in Kyiv on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus’-Ukraine, the attention of all was focused on the measures that were being taken by the other two churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (July 27, Friday) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (July 28, Saturday). During the Saturday events, there were representatives of the UAOC and the procession was called “For a single local church” – the UOC-KP and the UAOC stood for a single church. At the events of July 28 there was a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarch. Also, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, took part in the procession. The Ecumenical Patriarch in his message to Ukraine noted that the Church of Constantinople took the initiative on the ultimate goal of giving the Ukrainian church autocephaly. But the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch did not bring the Tome to Ukraine.
UA:First, which is part of the public broadcasting system and the main channel in this system, has not broadcast the events on July 28. The events of July 27 and 28 were reported on this channel in the news. But the broadcast on July 28 was conducted on the TV channel UA:Culture and on the pages on Facebook. Also, it was carried out by private TV channels, for example, “112 Ukraine” and Channel 5. UA:First at that time was broadcasting the film “The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant”.
PR specialist UA:Public Broadcasting Kateryna Melnyk reported how the channels from the Public system covered mentioned events. I quote from the post on Facebook:
“On July 27, the program RadioDay, which is broadcast on UA:First and on the air of the Ukrainian radio, was dedicated to the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.
At the broadcast of UA:FIRST on July 27
At the broadcast of UA:CULTURE on July 28
From 8:30 to 13:30 – the special project “European Choice: 1030 years” dedicated to the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism Day of Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine (a broadcast of the celebrations at the Volodymyr Cathedral, the Procession to the Volodymyr Hill and events near the monument to St. Prince Volodymyr)
On air on July 28
On the radio “Culture”, the program “Culture. Live” at 9:05 on the Baptism of Rus’, on the First Channel of the Ukrainian Radio at 13:00 – a live report from the Volodymyr Hill.
On the radio on July 28
UA:News on Facebook – Live Stream for 68 minutes
UA:News on Facebook – Live Stream for 93 minutes
UA:News on Facebook – Live Stream for 62 minutes
UA:News on Facebook – Live Stream for 21 minutes
UA:CULTURE on Facebook – Live Stream for 141 minutes
Newest evening news release about today’s events:
In terms of balance – everything is OK. One day was shown one party, the other – another party. They did not broadcast either these or those. It seems all right.
Why, in my opinion, it is not enough? What was important to explain?
When we say that we should not cover such events actively, because our state is secular – this is a very simplistic approach. The measures are merely religious (long before the Tome initiative) and have become part of a big politics, and therefore they have a considerable influence on society. In the end, these events were quite massive, which is also an indicator of more serious coverage.
Ukrainian society is very traditional. It is not noticeable here in Kyiv, especially among media people and creative people, but it is very noticeable if you go beyond these environments and move to the regions. The sociological service of the Razumkov Center monitors the status and tendencies of the religiosity of Ukrainian society since 2000. According to the results of the last survey (March 2018), 72% of respondents are believers. Undoubtedly, the largest percentage of believers are traditionally in the West (90.7%), but in the East, the percentage is also high – 63.3% (study by reference).
I will not go into who belongs to which church, etc. It is not about that. But the church in the life of the Ukrainian society occupies a significant place and has a significant influence. After all, churches in many countries of the world (even in secular states) have a huge impact on society and its mood. This influence is carried out imperceptibly because the media does not go deep into the religious topics, leaving it on the information side of the road. However, history knows positive and negative examples of the role of the church: for example, the Catholic Church played a huge role in Poland in the fight against the Soviet system; but today the Russian Orthodox Church legitimizes Putin’s authoritarian power and tries to influence the Ukrainian society through the UOC-MP.
Why did I write so much about the influence of the church? To show that this topic deserves the close attention of the media.
What was missing in the media field? An analysis of events that unfolded around events on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus’-Ukraine and the Tome issue; and analysis in several sections: political, social and even security.
How does the question of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church relate to the assertion of Ukraine’s independence and today’s confrontation with Russia? What consequences will the politicization of the issue of obtaining autocephaly of the Ukrainian church have? Will there be a way to get the Tome bloodless? After all, churches that are in favor of autocephaly will now conduct appropriate policies. The UOC MP will conduct its policy in response, or in advance. Or will it generate additional conflicts in the Ukrainian communities? In what regions is the greatest risk of aggravation of the situation on religious grounds? In the end, who asked Poroshenko and his team why he only now began to pedal the issue of getting the Tome right before the presidential elections, and not at the beginning of his cadence (we all know what the answer is, but what would Poroshenko himself say)? Why did the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarch ignore the same measures in Russia and come to Ukraine, and what does this mean? What role can churches play in the presidential elections that are approaching? And many other questions.
Discussion of all of them, I would like to hear it on the Public, and not on private channels, where the political interests of their owners dominate.
Another reason for the leadership of the Public, why events were not broadcast on the UA:First, was the participation of Petro Poroshenko and his wife in the events on the occasion of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism Day of Kievan Rus’, they all would have accused the television channel of the PR of the President. I am absolutely against showing all the events, where the country’s first faces cut ribbons or handing medals… But it was possible to find a way to show and explain the incidents, without any PR specifically.
This situation gives an important question. We are getting to the elections and there will be more and more dilemmas (what is considered PR, and what is the fulfillment of official duties). How will the UA:First solve them? Do not show anyone – it’s certainly an option. But is this good for society?
Given the list of important issues mentioned above, it seems to me that this is a topic for coverage on the UA:First, not the UA:Culture. Therefore, the film “The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant”, which the channel showed during the events of July 28, was very dissonant with what was happening in reality on the streets of Kyiv. And Facebook-broadcast was completely not enough. I do not have the figures in my hands, but I assume that still, not all the UA:First audience went on this social network. At least in the circle of my friends, the question “Why does not the UA: First show anything?” sounded.
In what format such a coverage should have been held, of course, is at the discretion of the editors of the channel. But an ordinary broadcast on the news was obviously not enough.
In the discussion around the coverage of these events that broke out in social networks, there were the arguments that UA: First is not an information channel, so it was not obliged to change the broadcasting grid in order to provide real-time coverage/comments on these events. Given the importance of the above problems, I cannot agree with this.
In the end, the question of what the UA: First is broadcasting should remain open. The team still has something to work on. But it definitely should explain to the society the complicated processes in the country because it has such a mission.