Regional broadcasting. In the arms of agony

It was so I’d started riveting storylines for the local TV before I got the nitty-gritty of how to do it. My journalism career started in the far 2001, my fourth year of university. I’ve decided to give it a try and went on casting without excess hope and belief in self. So, now I’m well aware of how the small-town news is made. However, back then it was a little different. The main demand – to write quickly and without mistakes. Ideally, to coin 2-4 storylines in a workday. Nobody asked. Fact and background? Different points of view? A detailed check of information? No, haven’t heard. I came, for example, on a meeting of a finance committee in the regional state administration. And there, they used the language, in which I understood only auxiliary parts. Nothing. I was writing down after the speakers dozens of tricky constructions, neatly tied them in the nodule and seasoned them with phrases such as “evaluating the situation”, “hopefully”, “can predict” etc. The editor read and merely understood something but thought – if he wrote, he knows about what. Certainly!

I quickly grasped the idea that the job on TV gives countless bonuses and significant preferences. It’s now when the journalists are seen as ordinary mortals, everyone is used to the camera, nobody burns with embarrassment and stay tongue-tied in front of the microphone. Back then, everything was different. We were sacredly waited at the threshold, almost with flowers, we were shown what was profitable and correct. Were given the business cards and assured that we could phone even at three p.m. We – could. How many friends I helped to get to the inaccessible doctors, how many housing offices changed the pipes in the toilet for free – I don’t remember. My microphone was a so-called horn of plenty – and I was generous, I sprinkled its bounties everywhere.

Such a notion as “authorities criticism” was strictly forbidden. Nobody would doubt the correctness of the “general line” or rise a hand at the providers. The maximum we could allow was to tweet about the open sewage hatches, illegal milk trade on the sidelines and the suburbs strewn with litter. Further – no-go area. More precisely – on the contrary. We joked with a phrase from weather-forecast: “Meanwhile, cyclone dominates in other cities of Ukraine, rainfalls and gusty winds of changing directions, in Poltava, it’s warm and sunny because the city authorities took care of it”.

The one didn’t laugh at our news who didn’t see them. City authorities take care about veterans. About invalids. About students. About central heating. About roads, greenery, white robes, convenient infrastructure, bridges, railway stations, markets. About everything. However, even this local news had high ratings. Many heard about the Internet, few saw it, no one could use it – that’s why they turned on the “blue screens” to find out what’s going on in the world.

We inspired people with fear. They respected us. Someone even loved us from time to time. The indifferent and used to us sparsely existed. We’re OK with it.

After few years, I got tired of running as an elk for local news and went to work on the regional radio. In the department of artistic-publicistic programs. No cold or heat. Make your leisurely shows about the artists, invite talented people to the interview. Without a rush, gravely, confidently. By the way, back then the interviews on the regional radio were recorded on the reel tapes and then demagnetized in a special room on a rattling device. If I needed a song for a show, I had to to go down to the first floor, get to the office of Olena Ivanovna, she unlocked the closet, gave a necessary reel tape (only if she had a good mood) and I went back on the third floor, where the sound operator with accurate movements compressed the program into one “file” on two recorders. And then, I again took the reel tape and carried it on the air. I can boast that several times I had an opportunity (it was an honour!) to conduct greeting shows with songs.

However, then they were already out of fashion but I still remember that soul-crushing, lyrical and sweet “A nice person lives in a village, sensitive mother, gentle grandmother and great-grandmother… let the roses fade from the cold, but you bloom and bloom… “. And then the song appeared (most of all it appeared, much less in sounded) performed by Raisa Kyrychenko or Ivo Bobul. And it was a musical “souvenir”.

I returned to the home TV studio, no longer a journalist but the head of the advertising department. I met cosy, carefree, just golden times. Until 2008 (when the first crisis broke out) I’d been living in a clover. There were plenty of people interested in advertising. “Boost” the one at the beginning of the years – crop the percents until next year. Every month. Only watch the “rival firm” not to lure your client with the myth high ratings. Not a big deal to find a client, the thing is to keep him with you. The advertising jungles in the regional centre are not less scary than in the capital. But I’d been skillfully steering our advertising ship for several years.

But then the times changed rapidly. More and more frequently I’ve heard from the clients the phrase “No one watches you” and derivatives from it. The screen as if lost its blue colour, went grey. It has been already pursued by the red “YouTube” and the blue “Facebook”, alive magazines, blogs, streams… The regional TV was losing its ground day after day. It seems that in 2012 I myself packed my TV into a box and brought to the grandfather in the village. Still, no regrets.

Last year the regional TV was reorganized. Reorganized and out of two hundred, they left twenty workers and even they’re sent on the unpaid holidays. On the city TV – it’s where I once started my bumpy ride – the director is changed every half a year. He comes and thinks – I’ll bring order, the clients will crowd the office, I only change the logotype and show more dirt and filth. And everything will pay off. And we will live without grant-in-aid. How clever am I! Will mess around and leave! Next in the queue. New broom – new rules. And they live from election to election. Advertising blocks are almost empty.

I asked myself many times – do I regret the times of local TV or not? There’s no certain answer. Sometimes, I stumble upon some storylines, watch and think: “These people have died a long time ago, didn’t notice it and continue going to work, coin a storyline. Dead.” And sometimes, I regret. I regret the times when we’re loved, respected and inspired with fear. I regret the times when I could write 4 storylines in a day and swell with proud of myself. I regret the tapes SuperVHS and MiniDV. Regret the reel tapes. Regret those obstacles, that special noise, that white snow on the air which buried the past. And, it seems, you look ahead. But regret the past.

Serhiy Osoka

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