Вівторок, 11 Грудня 2018

112 + Medvedchuk. What's happening with the top ranking news channel

The involvement of the politician to the channel is denied by himself and by the broadcaster's management. However, at least three sources who are well acquainted with the situation at "112 Ukraine" have confirmed to Detector Media that Viktor Medvedchuk has influenced the channel for some time. That is also testified by the channel content.
112 + Medvedchuk. What's happening with the top ranking news channel
112 + Medvedchuk. What's happening with the top ranking news channel

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If you visit Facebook, you will probably meet sad eyes of Yegor Benkendorf, general manager of "112 Ukraine". A considerable amount of money is spent on making the whole world see the advertising posts with multilingual requests for help from the "repressed" TV channel. After the petition for the closure of "112 Ukraine" and NewsOne on the Verkhovna Rada's website got the required 25 thousand signatures, and the Parliament asked the National Security and Defense Council to apply sanctions against the owners of these channels, "112" mobilized as many as they could to protect themselves. Members of the "Opposition Bloc" in Verkhovna Rada "blocked" the resolution, and on the President's website, a petition for non-admission of sanctions appeared. Special projects such as this one were broadcasted on the channel, where the hosts proclaimed the impartiality and independence of "112". Meanwhile, at least three sources close to the channel have confirmed to Detector Media that Viktor Medvedchuk has a direct impact on "112".

The channel of unknown ownership

Since the launch of the channel in the summer of 2013, it seems everybody have failed to give an absolute answer to the question "whose is 112?" Then the channel was associated with either the then Interior Minister Vitalii Zakharchenko or the Minister of Finance Serhii Arbuzov. Subsequently, control over the channel was ascribed to various politicians and businessmen, the most notable of whom is Dmytro Firtash. But there have never been a cast-iron evidence of who exactly is behind the channel.

According to the official version, the channel owner was previously widely unknown Poltava businessman Andriy Podshypkov. He was also an advisor to the Chairman of the Bank "Market Technologies", which belonged to Zakharchenko through a number of companies. Viktor Zubrytskyi, whose wife (and Podshypkov’s sister) owned one of the digital licenses of the channel, became the creative producer of "112". During Maidan, Zubrytskyi managed the Media Contact Media, which produced media-killer programs such as The Last Warning on the then State First National channel, directed against the opposition, the media and civil activists. When in 2014, the power changed hands, Zubrytskyi was announced wanted; he fled from Ukraine, later brought a complaint against the Interior Ministry and won the courts, but never returned.

The channel management has changed: Serhii Logunov became the general producer. Zakharchenko and Arbuzov settled in Russia, but the channel worked further. The former government, the present government and the new opposition competed to control and use it to their advantage. "Various people came in there, there were security deals, the channel was in a gale," said a source familiar with the situation on the channel. The fugitive People’s Deputy Oleksandr Onischenko claims that Petro Poroshenko asked him to buy the channel. Instead, Podshypkov, who formally had owned "112" for a long time, argued that Onischenko negotiated not on behalf of Poroshenko but on his own. According to the materials published by Slidstvo.info, the oligarch-fugitive Serhii Kurchenko, a mediator on the part of an unnamed owner who was in Russia, appeared in the talks. However, there is no accurate information on whether the channel was then sold and if so, then to whom.

The Law on Transparency of Media Ownership adopted in the end of 2015 obliged all TV channels to publicly name the ultimate owners. However, according to the documents, the owner of all six companies broadcasting under the common brand "112 Ukraine" was the same Andriy Podshypkov. When tax authorities raised questions to him, Podshypkov ceased to appear as the owner of the channel, and all his former companies began to own their own parts. In September 2016, Podshypkov fled from Ukraine and asked for political asylum either in Austria or in Belgium. And in November 2016, Yegor Benkendorf , who had been working for Inter for almost twenty years (with the exception of 2010-2013, when he was the head of the National Television Company of Ukraine, which at that time became de facto a part "Inter" group, although at some point Arbuzov’s people began to manage finances there) was appointed the general manager of “112”. Then the situation stabilized for the whole year and a half. As long as the owner of the channel suddenly changed.

A used cars dealer

In April 2018, the citizen of Germany Eduard Katz became the ultimate beneficiary of the media. According to the Schemes broadcast investigation, he is a resident of a small village, who has a small business - resale of cars. And he bought a channel allegedly from... Viktor Zubrytskyi, who suddenly turned out to be the beneficiary of "112", although previously he had not recognized it. Nobody knows where a modest German got money to buy (in the negotiations with Onischenko, an amount of USD 30 million was mentioned) and maintain the channel. In a word, hardly anyone doubts that Katz is also only a nominal owner. Still, it is unclear again who is a genuine owner.

The channel management has also changed. In June, Serhii Logunov left the channel. Instead, Artem Marchevskyi became a general producer, who, according to the investigation of Schemes, has ties with Medvedchuk. As early as in July, the newspaper "Vesti" wrote about the fact that the real owner of the channel was allegedly Medvedchuk, referring to anonymous sources. Dmytro Gordon and Yevhen Chervonenko spoke of "112" belonging to Medvedchuk on the air of the channel itself (time 3:12). Officially, the channel's management denies its connection with Medvedchuk, and Medvedchuk denies his connection with the channel. However, after the Schemes investigation, the channel stopped cooperating with Radio Liberty, although it was such joint projects on the 112 air that were the evidence for many experts and speakers that the channel was "normal" and could be cooperated with it. At "112", they explained that instead of "Liberty" projects they would do their own.

Meanwhile, only in the first two months of this summer, on "112", there appeared more news on the leader of the "Ukrainian Choice" than during the whole previous year. The keynote and content of the messages have also changed. While Medvedchuk previously was talked about mostly in the context of the negotiations in Minsk, today's typical news is an excuse: “The story of the film about Stus is a provocation by Americans, says Medvedchuk”, and attacks: "Medvedchuk: Ukrainian politicians make every effort to make Oleh Sentsov not come back home." Medvedchuk's statements are broadcasted on the air, his quotes are added to the moving line of news and guest studios; he is the first to be invited to the broadcast "Great interview with a great politician" and help him communicate his messages.

In addition to Medvedchuk's messages, there are enough pro-Russian messages on the “112” air. For example, the host Denys Zharkykh, who previously allegedly co-operated with NewsFront, invites the broadcasters of pro-Russian views and, again, repeatedly cites Medvedchuk. That was "112" where Eugeniy Murayev showed up with his statement about "Sentsov-terrorist", and the journalist, as noted the Independent Media Council, "made no attempt to remind the international response to the detention of Oleg Sentsov or stop the spread of information that could lead to negative consequences".

Many pro-Russian speeches are broadcasted on the talk show "Pulse" that has been on the channel since September this year. "Peace by any price", "They protect the country that raises well-being of its citizens", "You live only for account of the USSR", "I do not know what to fight for now", - that was what the former transport minister Yevhen Chervonenko had had a chance to speak on a single broadcast. Mykhailo Dobkin, an ex-member of the Party of Regions, talked about the unconstitutional seizure of power in 2014, the erroneous collapse of the USSR, the absence of common holidays and victories in Ukraine. As well as the fact that the war was started not by the Russians, but by the Americans who were first to come to Ukraine to the Maidan to distribute cookies and to call for the overthrow of the regime. Vadim Karasyov assured on "Pulse" that without trade with Russia "we would be dead". And Nestor Shufrych blamed Ukraine for escalating the sea conflict with Russia – as if everything began with the detention of the Russian vessel "Nord". The hosts inviting these politicians to the air regularly (incidentally, the same composition is almost always seen on the air of the program "Ukrainian format on NewsOne") do not interfere in the flow of anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian slogans.  

Wonderful conditions were created on the "112" for the party "For Life" which Medvedchuk recently officially entered and before that allegedly unofficially supported. Vadim Rabinovich, the leader of the party, and its most active representative Nestor Shufrych have their own reality show which is used for PR and promotion of the party ideology. The two of them managed to visit 3/4 of the talk shows "Pulse" that got into the Mediasapiens monitoring from the beginning of September. The members of "For Life" behave there accordingly: you can estimate by yourself how the host Volodymyr Poluyev attempted to take the word from Nestor Shufrych and how it ended.

Vadim Rabinovich also has been hosting the broadcast "Who is Rabinovich to Whom" for two years already on the channel. In it, the leader of "For Life", for example, allows himself to invent jokes about the Ukrainian army quoted by the Russian media. They do not forget about Rabinovich in other projects as well. His offensive comments are quoted in "The Evening Prime" and manipulative ratings are given in the paid-for section "Episode".

The petition for preventing the suppression of freedom of speech calls "112" "an island of protection and confession of the fundamental values of the modern civilized world" and "independent media". However, in recent months, there have been more and more values of the Russian, and not civilized world on the channel air. And a lot of signs of political dependence as well.

Medvedchuk comes in, journalists go out

For people working on "112", increasing attention to the leader of "Ukrainian Choice" and his presence on the air was obvious. "We were even discretely promised that Medvedchuk would not appear in the news," said one of the former journalists of the channel to "DM". For some time, the news on "112" really remained the bastion of independence and of relatively decent quality. According to the source, this was possible thanks to the head of the news service Iryna Malykhina. Protecting the news, she as if "fought to the last and had difficult conversations on the subject with the channel's management." This battle ended on October 1 - Malykhina retired, explaining to DM that the creative ways of her and "112" were different. She refused to give more detailed comments.

The journalists began retiring from the channel almost immediately after the change of top management in June 2018. One of the first freed The parliamentary correspondent Daryna Boyko was one of the first to leave. The reporter Tatiana Nakonechna went to ICTV because of "creative differences", who, however, emphasizes that she suffered no censorship or pressure on "112". Later, due to "world view controversies", the host Yulia Motrich left. The host Vitaliy Bakumenko "lost his motivation" and left for UATV.

"You see, people became not pleased," explains another former employee of the channel. “Many of them are students who grew up on the channel. They were taught to work according to the standards, and they can not work otherwise. Somebody himself suffered from war, somebody worked as a military correspondent, somebody resettled. For them, the appearance of Medvedchuk in the air is simply unacceptable."

Meanwhile, the news host Yevhen Mikhin says that nothing has changed in his work: "The market is shaking now. Somebody leaves profession, somebody goes to other channels. There are many different reasons that people go - I would not put it under any tendency. I read about the new owner on the Internet, and the deaf have not heard the cries about the Kremlin's hand in the Parliament. But, firstly, I did not see the new owner, nobody introduced him to me. Secondly, nothing has changed in my work. You yourself monitor the news, do not you? There are standards of journalism that our Editorial Board adheres to and that’s all. I can not imagine anyone coming and saying that the owner has changed, so we will have new standards."

Instead, another source of DM asserts that Artem Marchevskyi personally negotiated with all the hosts, including the news ones, about the "innovations" in the information policy of the channel. "There appeared an aggressive pro-Russian rhetoric on the channel. The news remained independent, but people who work outside the news are so loyal that they do not even need any specific instructions - they all understand by themselves," says a former employee of "112". Another source states that “Live” and "The Evening Prime" programs have some theses, which are transmitted to editors, and which are desirable to voice and discuss on the air. And the general producer of the channel Artem Marchevskyi stated that "editorial policy is common for all products of the channel" in reply to the DM question.

One of the peculiarities of the "112" format is the imitation of pluralism: there are many people with a wide variety of thoughts on the channel air consisting mostly of guest studios. But if you take a closer look, this is not entirely the case.

For example, on the air of talk shows and in personal interviews on the channel, the members of "Batkivschyna" complain that they have not been invited to "112" for almost a year, and they still do not want to invite Yulia Tymoshenko. The last interview with the leader of "Batkivschyna" indeed happened in October last year, judging by the video downloaded to the site of "112". Although in 2017, she was on air at least five times. There were seen no interviews with other "Batkivschyna" speakers on the TV channel from November 2017 to July 2018. Similarly, from October of the last year to August of this year (one appearance in the talk show), Serhii Taruta did not visit "112", who had been on air several times a month. Last fall, Serhii Kaplin also vanished, who had regularly visited the channel before.

Anatoliy Grytsenko forgot the way to the channel in June 2018. Prior to that, he participated in almost twenty airs during the year. It is important to clarify that in the summer, several politicians refused from the airs deliberately within the boycott, which was announced, in particular, by members of the inter-faction association "Eurooptimists" after Muraev's statement about "Sentsov-terrorist". But it has nothing to do with Anatoliy Grytsenko. This is unlikely to concern Yuriy Boyko, who at least once visited “112” in January, February, March, April, May, and ... that’s all. His comment on the union of "Opposition Bloc" with "For Life" once appeared on the air in September. Other “Opposition Bloc” speakers were not invited to the studio since the same time: Novinsky (since May, they have recently started inviting), Vilkul (since June, they began to invite him to a talk show in September), Kolesnikov (since June). Instead, ex-regional Anna Herman is invited to the air on a regular basis, although she says there that "how many thousands of healthy young people taken to the war returned from there being moral cripples - they killed other’s mothers there, but here they are killing their own".

Non-aggression pact

Another old issue of "112" is dubious licenses. The channel’s broadcast network was formed during Yanukovych's time in violation of all conceivable rules and laws, and with all assistance provided by the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting, which was controlled by the Party of Regions. Five companies that received broadcasting licenses in different regions in 2011 did not start broadcasting, but in 2013 they changed their owners and switched to the common “112 Ukraine” logo. That is how a new nationwide TV channel appeared. "112" has already five warnings from the National Council for changing the format from entertainment, provided by licenses, to the purely informational. The channel requires the dismissal of the head of the regulator, which has already denied "112" the re-registration of digital licenses 34 times.

As you can see, the national channel "112" is the same fruit of the merger of politics, state regulation and business as Mezhygirya, the building empire of Alexander Yanukovych or "Boyko towers". Why a postmaydan government has not raised a hand against it for five years?

According to some DM sources, the Presidential Administration seems to have received for some time and continues to have a certain impact on "112", although, they say, neither Poroshenko himself nor anyone close to him is a beneficiary of the channel. The guarantor of this influence on the channel seems to be Yegor Benkendorf. With the advent of the ex-general producer of "Inter" to "112", the criticism of the President in guest studios has become much softer. The channel covers all official events and presidential statements, including live broadcasting. One of the sources calls Benkendorf a man who can negotiate with everyone who influences the channel: "Yegor was invited to enable him to reconcile all. He is a great negotiator. It is possible that Benkendorf helped the Presidential Administration to negotiate with Medvedchuk as the new owner of the channel." “DM” have not succeeded in getting answers to the questions from Yegor Benkendorf yet; we are ready to give him the opportunity to comment on these allegations.

The fact that they stopped letting Tymoshenko, the main rival of the current President in the 2019 elections, come to "112" even before the advent of Medvedchuk, may also testify to loyalty to Poroshenko. And the procrastination of the National Council with the deserved taking away of the license from the channel - that the authorities fulfill their part of the deal. "There has long been the informal rule "about Poroshenko, it is either well or not at all" on the channel news. It is Bankova that is interested in the promotion of allegedly oppositional candidates such as Rabinovych and hopes to bring the candidate who can not win the election against Poroshenko in the second round," the source comments.

People's Deputy Serhii Leschenko, who formally enters the Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction, but is in fact a consistent critic of the President, argued that Bankova created problems for "112" on purpose in order to take control of the channel. Leschenko’s former partner Mustafa Nayem suggests that the channel will have real problems only if it begins to criticize Poroshenko and give the word to his "uncomfortable" rivals, in particular, Tymoshenko and Anatoliy Gritsenko. Tymoshenko’s press secretary of Maryna Soroka relates the fact that Yulia Volodymyrivna has not been invited to the channel on the air since October 26, 2017 with the fact that "the channel is under Bankova’s control." Medvedchuk, by the way, is now talking favorably about Tymoshenko, and we have recently reminded about their cooperation in the past.

According to one source, all these demonstrations of loyalty to Poroshenko testify to the fulfillment by the channel of the "agreement on intentions", which was allegedly concluded by Oleksandr Onischenko on behalf of the President's team in 2015. The deal, they say, was not terminated even after changing the owner. Other sources of "DM" at the Presidential Administration, the Ministry of Information Policy and some public organizations, however, categorically deny the possibility of an arrangement between Poroshenko and Medvedchuk. They say, "they have different paths to follow now."

Why sanctions and what they will give

In the autumn of 2018, pro-Russian position of the two channels associated with Medvedchuk and their participation in explicitly directed by the Kremlin manipulative special operations like "Parubiy admires Hitler" was too obvious that the government could ignore it. Initially, it was more about NewsOne, but "112" quickly catches up with its fellow competitors. At that time, perhaps, an idea with sanctions emerged; but it is not apparent it was effective.

On October 4, a number of people's deputies initiated an appeal to the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine with a request to impose sanctions against two TV channels. 229 deputies from the "Bloc of Petro Poroshenko", "People's Front", "Samopomich" and "Batkivschyna" voted for the resolution.

Nominee owner of “112”, Edward Katz, said that "the channel team is starting to work on protecting freedom of speech in Ukraine at the international level" and expressed the hope that "the reaction of Western partners of Ukraine and international organizations will not allow this dirty and perverted plan to be realized." The channel has appealed for assistance to international organizations. On the air of "112", they stated that the Verkhovna Rada voted "for closing the channel".

In his comment to "DM", Artem Marchevskyi linked the appeal of the Verkhovna Rada to the National Security and Defense Council "with political manipulation and the beginning of the election campaign". "Opposition Bloc" registered the resolution to cancel this appeal. "As a rule, this is done in order to take time," a source close to the NSDC said. “Parubiy is obliged to put these initiatives to the vote under the rules. If they do not receive an adequate number of votes, the speaker will sign an appeal to the NSDC and sanctions will be considered at a meeting of this body."

A People’s Deputy, who asked not to disclose his name, said to "DM" that the BPP faction, although voting for the appeal, was in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, it was necessary to vote on populist grounds, on the other hand, sanctions against the channel loyal to Poroshenko could damage the leader's election campaign. "Poroshenko came up with this entire story with Portnov and Medvedchuk himself. He wanted to create a problem, to mobilize a patriotic electorate, to show how he fights against the Kremlin's hands. And to make Tymoshenko, Lyashko and other opposition politicians uncomfortable to go to these channels. It was assumed that the resolution would not receive the required number of votes in the Parliament. But he was outwitted. Now he will be forced to consider the issue of depriving these channels of the license, although he does not want this,"- said the People’s Deputy.

Most sources of "DM" believe that sanctions will not be applied to the channels, even if the NSDC will consider the appeal. In the end, nothing prevents you from making "112" what has already been done with NewsOne: to change the false owner. Obviously, Edward Katz is not the only car dealer in Germany.  

Defense line

Another reason why the government is extremely reluctant to resolve the problem of pro-Russian channels is undesirable publicity with inevitable allegations of censorship and attacks on freedom of speech. That's what both the opposition and the channel's management are talking about, what happens.

General Producer of "112" Artem Marchevskyi, answering the DM question, stated that "Medvedchuk is neither an investor nor a channel owner." He called the information about the involvement of the channel in the channel "bogus stories", the appearance of which was associated with "the upcoming elections and the attempt to link the independent media resource with a certain ideology."

Marchevskyi calls his relationship with Edward Katz "trust-based": the new owner "does not interfere in the management process of the channel." They say, a separate document that would guarantee non-interference with editorial policy of "112" is not necessary. After all, non-interference “was initially due to mutual agreements. This is the main principle of our channel and Edward appreciates and honors it." The channel’s General Producer assures that there are no "blacklists", but "there are people who openly told unfair, biased, nasty things towards the channel on the channel’s air. We try not to call such people if there are no valid event reasons for this." As for Tymoshenko, Marchevskyi advises: "Just watch her latest air on our channel and you will understand everything by yourself." We watched: on the air of October 26, 2017, Tymoshenko did not speak either about freedom of speech or about the "112" channel.

Why is there so much of Medvedchuk on the air? Marchevskyi explains: " Medvedchuk began to appear in the public sphere and this is of interest to our audience. You can watch the "Great interview with a great politician" program and understand what I mean." We watched: the share of interview with Medvedchuk was 4.49%, the rating was 1.36%; the average share of the channel is 2.48%, the rating is 0.74%. The channel did not announce the ratings of other broadcasts of the "Great Interview". At the same time, we can not but point out the big role of the “112” channel in the public promotion of Medvedchuk.

"We have always adhered to the balance of ideas and, I assure you, we will continue to adhere to it," says Marchevskyi. But it is not clear that Medvedchuk's dominance on the air of "112" was balanced by other thoughts. The leader of the "Ukrainian Choice" is quoted on the air every day on a variety of occasions and in a variety of places, and often his opinion is the only one in the material.

For example, the material about the delay of pensions. After the expert’s words on why pensions payment is delayed, there is the phrase "It should be noted that a member of the party "For Life" Victor Medvedchuk stated in the interview that by borrowing funds from the IMF and other organizations, Ukrainian Government is trying to fight a fire with gasoline" and there is a Medvedchuk’s quote about the IMF. They do not explain to the audience how the IMF relates to pensions. The host voices the same quote about the IMF in the conversation with another expert the other day.

And here is the news about the possible consolidation in the constitution of the course on joining NATO. And again, the comments of Medvedchuk. In the news about the moratorium on the use of Russian cultural product in the Lviv region, he was also quoted. They title Medvedchuk as a member of the party "For Life", but give a link to the website of "Ukrainian Choice".

In many cases, they add video to the news, which was filmed during the same "interview with a great politician", including excerpts that are not part of the air version. So to speak, Medvedchuk is for all occasions. It is a pity that the host Pavlo Kuzheyev did not ask Medvedchuk during the interview whether he had a relationship with the "112" channel.

Although the answer is becoming more and more obvious with each passing day.

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