National TV without General Director: Who is Zurab Alasania and why he decided to leave his post

Author : News Agency

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General Director of National Television Company Zurab Alasania says he is leaving office. His decision, he explained the problems with budget for Eurovision-2017 and for created Public Television
22:30, 2 November 2016

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Zurab Alasania was born on January 3, 1965 in the city of Sukhumi. In 80s he moved to Ukraine, studied and worked in Kharkiv. For several years he lived abroad. His journalistic activities, he also began in the former capital of Ukraine, and in 2005 headed the Kharkiv Regional State Broadcasting Company. In 2013, he became one of the founders of, and at the end of March 2014 led the National Television Company of Ukraine. A few days later he said he intends to establish the Public TV on the basis of NTCU. Even then Alasania noted that such transition to public broadcasting service in Ukraine will take place gradually, and its full launch is possible within a few years.

During Alasania’s work First National channel has changed significantly. Dozens of new projects and documentaries have been created. The channel in May 2014 launched the first debates between the presidential candidates in Ukraine, and later - between people's deputies before their elections. First National channel, which for the long time has been associated with Mykhailo Poplavskyi concerts, terminated contract with the singer.

But the main mission was to create in Ukraine the Public TV. In summer of 2014 was announced the transformation of state institution NTCU in PJSC "National public broadcaster of Ukraine" (NPBU), 100% owned by the state.

Presentation of the public broadcasting was held on 7 April 2015. After it broadcasting company changed its name and logo – from First National channel to UA: PERSHIY (UA: FIRST). On the same day, the president in a live signed a law on public broadcasting service. But in fact, Public TV is still not working in Ukraine.

Related: Alasania: Two cities to host Eurovision 2017 still have drawbacks to be detailed

NPBU is formed on the basis of the National Television Company of Ukraine and the National Radio Company of Ukraine, the State TV and Radio Company "Culture", the regional state TV and radio companies, the State TV and Radio Company "Crimea", Sevastopol Regional State TV and Radio Company, State Enterprise Ukrainian studio of television films “Ukrtelefilm ", which were reorganized by joining the National television Company of Ukraine.

For two years lasted work on the NTCU reform. It was necessary to adopt appropriate laws, create branches, the Supervisory Board, complete of the termination of legal entities of former state broadcasters, approve the statute, and so on.

Alasania was appointed the chairman of commission on transforming the National Television into the National Public Broadcaster of Ukraine. In mid-October 2016 a draft statute of it was made public which still needs to be approved by the Cabinet.

"The public broadcaster - it's like broccoli, it has a lot of healthy vitamins that you should eat every day, although it is not tasty. Public TV should not be bright, beautiful, high-rating. It must be the media that is trusted. We have been showing for the long time, that we do not allow the authorities to channel. In 2013, people did not even believe that this can come true. And now they don’t even remember about this ", - Alasania noted in an interview.

Alasania at a press conference pointed out that NTCU is in a state where both the old laws don’t work anymore, and the new - still do not work either.

"In these conditions we must work every day in the field, to fill broadcasting plan for each of 28 companies, and in parallel reform in our company should take place also. During these two and a half years in our existence, nothing has changed - neither budget, nor attitude, nor laws. Some conditions became even worse, because during the transition old laws don’t work anymore, and the new - still do not work either. And so it is all strange happens, "- he said. In addition, he said, a significant challenge to the broadcaster has put the Eurovision-2017. – “The fact that Eurovision will be held in Ukraine – it is, on the one hand, the inspiration, and on the other – something that can drown us. "

Related: Alasania leaves post of General Director of NTCU due to problems with Eurovision 2017 budget

Now the process of transition is actually on the home straight, but apart from formal procedures there is the question of funding.

Alasania in his address on the dismissal stated that exactly the problems of the budget of Eurovision Song Contest 2017 and also of the future broadcaster are the cause of his departure. He explains that it is simply impossible to use Eurovision budget of the country in a legal and transparent way. In addition, the Ministry of Finance entered Eurovision budget for 2017into the budget of the NTCU which is not enough for reforming the channel.

- Country needs the public broadcaster as it needs clean air in a poisoned environment industry. However, society's expectations for reform are not real: inside it you realize that in our conditions, if not to violate the laws of each step, but change ourselves with the laws - this reform will take lots of time. In parallel, the "soviet" thinking workers change too slowly. Most of them still believe that the company exist for not to create useful content for people, but only to pay them, workers (proved by labor unions). Then suddenly there is event - the Eurovision Song Contest, which does not even reduce, but literally squeezes everything that happens, including the timing. But conditions in the country have not changed significantly. And I just suddenly realize: not only that the psychological responsibility has doubled, but now the criminal responsibility is added. Weighing in tens of millions Euros.

He says that his decision - it is not an attempt to blackmail the government. General Director of NTCU said that during this period the company "must receive a leader, who would be more compromising, flexible, has ability to negotiate and meet the often conflicting demands of participants of the process".

Alasania said that his resignation might draw attention to the problems with the Eurovision budget and the budget of the future Public TV.

That is, from 1.2 billion UAH, provided by the budget on the development of the public broadcaster in 2017, the state takes away 450 million UAH for the Eurovision contest, UAH 250 million is taken as payment for broadcasting, 149 million UAH - as taxes, and 46 million the city takes as utility payments. Another 112 million UAH a priori will be spent for international activities (Olympic Games, World Championships, etc.). The balance is - 193 million UAH (almost 7,5 million USD). Political leaders, are you serious?

In early September, he also said that the issue of selection of the host city of Eurovision-2017 is a political one.

Related: Mustafa Nayyem to head NTCU instead of Alasania

Recently, also initial labor union of the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTCU) expressed distrust to general director of the company Zurab Alasania. He stated that "these are conservative people who are afraid of the future, of change."

MP (Block of Petro Poroshenko) Mustafa Nayem, who has long worked with the CEO of NTCU, says that Alasania's dismissal would mean leaving "the guarantor of the channel’s independence." He fears that on his place authority may appoint a person who will not allow broadcasting investigative reports.

"On the one hand – he has criminal liability, if he will hold the Eurovision with the budget and the procedures that we have now. But if he refuses to break the law, he falls under the political responsibility, because in this case he would not hold the Eurovision. I think the government consciously knows it. I think Groysman knows about it, and I hope that after he was our ally in the parliament, he will be an ally in the government and support Zurab. On the other hand, indeed, there is under-funding of the First National channel. Unfortunately, for journalists and civil society, this reform is not a priority. That’s our fault as well. I hope we will do anything to solve the issue ", - said Nayem.

Currently it remains unclear how Alasania’s dismissal will affect the launch of Public TV and holding of Eurovision-2017, as NTCU is one of its organizers.

Related: Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine accepts Alasania’s resignation

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