On September 24 Ukraine’s state broadcaster UA:PBC confirmed its intentions to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
Now, just a few days later, Ukraine’s government has forced the broadcaster to stop its analogue transmission owing to mounting debts.
Noel Curran — the Director General of the EBU — has called on the government to reallocate funds to keep the broadcaster on air.
“We are dismayed that the authorities have taken the decision to deprive the Ukrainian people of this important public service.”
“We urge the authorities to restore transmissions immediately and allocate the necessary funding to allow public service media to fulfil its critical role to society and to democracy in Ukraine.”
As the EBU points out, that’s particularly important in the run-up to Presidential and Parliamentary elections, which will take place in 2019.
UA:PBC is the country’s only broadcaster that is a full member of the European Broadcasting Union — a requirement in order to participate in and air the Eurovision Song Contest.
This year the broadcaster, which has one of the smallest budgets in Europe, only received half of the 40 million euro budget which it is allocated under national law.
The news is unfortunate, but it isn’t entirely surprising. Back in March it emerged that the broadcaster had only received half of its entitled funds.
At the time UA:PBC’s board chairman Zurab Alasania, who resigned as general director after a budget cut during the hosting process of Eurovision 2017, took a pessimistic outlook on the public broadcaster’s future. As he told UNIAN:
“Due to this [lack of] funding, UA:PBC will be forced, already in April, to stop broadcasting without exception from all analog transmitters, as well as a significant number of digital and satellite transmitters.”
In June, UA’s First channel stopped analogue broadcasting in nine cities — including the capital Kyiv — as part of its belt-tightening.
Naturally Eurovision fans are now worried about what this all means for Ukraine’s participation at Eurovision 2019. After all, they withdrew in 2015 citing financial problems (which were, no doubt, compounded by war with Russia over the annexation of Crimea).
Their recent confirmation that they plan to compete at Eurovision will give fans a degree of hope. But intentions — no matter how good — don’t always work out. Let’s hope Ukraine’s government — and by extension UA:PBC — can get their finances in order fast.
Something else to consider: The national final Vidbir is run by the commercial broadcaster STB (while UA:PBC looks after the winning song as the ESC entry). STB is not affected by these financial issues…but they’re not an EBU member so they couldn’t take over Ukraine’s ESC entry if UA:PBC closes down for good.