In May he was among those cheering the loudest when Jamala won Eurovision 2016, bringing the contest back to Ukraine and giving state broadcaster NTU an opportunity to bask in the international spotlight.
But those happy memories turned sour on Tuesday as Zurab Alasania — NTU’s General Director for the past two years — announced that he was resigning from his role over the effects of lingering budget cuts just months before Eurovision…one of the most expensive and significant events the country has ever hosted.
— Zurab Alasania (@Zurab_Alasania) November 1, 2016
Writing that the public broadcaster needs “clean air in an environment poisoned by industry,” he makes several heated points about the broadcaster’s limited budget and how it must do so much with so little. The great expense of Eurovision — an event he loves and thinks will be good for the country — brings into sharper focus the budgetary restraints he and the system face.
He is fuming at the government for taking the ESC budget out of the station’s regular budget, barely leaving anything for him to run the station on for the next year. It would have been on him to make ESC and the general station business happen despite the crunch. So he’s quitting in protest.
The government (through the Ministry of Finance) have included the Eurovision into the annual 2017 budget of the National Public Broadcasting Company.
Thus, out of €42,8 m prescribed by the law for the development of the Public Broadcaster in 2017, the government takes away €16 m for the Eurovision costs, €8,9 m as payment for transmission, €5,3 m by taxing and the city takes €1,6 m through utility bills. Another €4 m a priori goes for international activities (Olympic Games, world championships, etc.).
What remains is €7 m. Authorities, are you serious?
Is that for the reconstruction of 32 outdated, obsolete and outmoded companies? It means zero for production and an average salary of €81 from that remaining amount. Shall we tell the country and the whole world that we are building Public Service Broadcasting after that?
There is a very strong suggestion that the government could provide more money if the powers-that-be wanted to share it in the name of public service.
In our country one can administrate (not a very tidy verb to use, is it?) with impunity, even billions. But only if you belong to the authorities or are close to it. Negotiate — and everything will be as it should: you will both do the work and make sure you don’t lose out on anything.
But otherwise… You will be punished for everything.
He ends his letter by making it clear he wants to raise awareness about the issue, perhaps to encourage the government to deploy its resources more effectively, and not simply to burn the building down as he walks out of the door.
Perhaps in this way I might be able to attract attention to the problems with the budget of Eurovision and the future Public Service Broadcaster’s budget.
This act is not blackmail of the authorities, it is rather an assumption that the transition period in the company must be overseen by a person who is more open to compromise, flexible, capable to deal, negotiating conflicting interests and interested parties.
However, we do not give up work, the next two weeks will be spent handing over the business to the newly-appointed chief. Yes, unfortunately, the new chief will not be elected by the Supervisory Board, but still appointed by the state.
I am enormously grateful to everyone who walked side by side, with whom I worked together and who took punches and honestly did their job.
I thank my colleagues who despite everything do not give us a head start and carefully monitor and treat us so critically as if the yet-state-owned company played with commercial companies on equal terms.
I also thank our viewers and listeners for not only expecting changes but also supporting them by not leaving us disregarded.
His resignation comes one day after a new “wealth declaration system” revealed that top government officials have huge stashes of currency, collections of weapons, rare Fabergé eggs and, in the case of one politician, an entire church. Critics have said it all points to the corruption of the political elite.
Will Zurab’s resignation send NTU into a tailspin with just months to go before Eurovision? Do you think his resignation will impact the quality of this year’s show? And will long-serving Deputy General Director Victoria Romanova — a very familiar face at Eurovision — be appointed his successor? Let us know in the comments box below.
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