Archive for March 23rd, 2013

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Privitising State/municipal print media – Ukraine

March 23, 2013

There were an awful lot of low profile but interesting things said at the Party of Regions Council meeting at which both President Yanukovych and Prime Minister Azarov were present on 21st March – some of which made it to the President’s website.

So many in fact, I may return to the statements and comments of the meeting over the next few days.

However, today, I will pick up on the issue of the privitisation of the State and municipal print media – a necessary privitisation in line with the commitments of Ukraine to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

It would seem the President is rather tired of waiting for this to happen and has issued a direct instruction for this matter to be legislatively prepared and submitted to the RADA by 5th April.

Hmmm!

Firstly, it is of course quite right that Ukraine honour its international commitments – but –

The President’s instruction calls for the input of journalists, editors and professional associations for this legislative bill.  Today is 22nd March.  Unless there has been considerable work on this bill already – including their input – then the time line would seem either impossible to achieve, or the result of the legislation will leave much to be desired.

That said, as is so often the case, Ukraine is not reinventing the wheel here – it is not the only FSU/Warsaw Pact nation to have to deal with this issue.  Many have successfully managed it already.  Models and legislation therefore already exist amongst Ukraine’s neighbours – albeit every nation is slightly different.

Arguably this privitisation is one of the easiest and less politically fraught ways of displaying progress in media reforms – as demanded by both the EU and CoE respectively, whilst not forcing the oligarchy to hold media assets that are not part of their core business to save the media falling under the control of the opposition – if indeed they have that much interest in owning it.

After all, what exactly does the State and municipal print media produce that could rival the TV, radio and on-line media assets controlled by the oligarchy?  What immediate danger is there in privitising those who, in the main,  produce forms, books and information pamphlets – particularly when any owner of a newly privitised print company will be needing the national and local government work to survive whilst they try and expand into other areas of print?

But therein is the problem for would-be owners when this privitisation comes to pass.

Buying such entities leaves a heavy reliance on the patriarchal benevolence of central and/or local government to have continued State and municipal work come your way.

Given the issues facing print media in general via the competition from TV, radio and the Internet, what chance of meaningful and profitable expansion?

In short, unless you are guaranteed a lucrative central/local government contract – for example the production of biometric passports, or the Odessa City Administration contract for forms and pamphleteering – why would you entertain buying a privitised State print entity?  You would surely have to sit very comfortably within the existing national or local patriarchy to entertain the idea.

That being so, whilst it is an international commitment of Ukraine to privatise the State and municipal print media, any successful privitisation would seem destined to simply give control of the State/municipality entities to vested interests via nothing more than an intermediary/shell in practice.

You wonder whether, perhaps, such entities could have been spun off to become something similar to a “University Press” – possibly under an LLC protective umbrella for respective universities – and then such municipal funds spent for books, pamphlets and forms et al., could at least then be used to off-set the costs of – or indeed expand – the universities in local cities and towns.

It is just one thought that comes to mind without spending no more than 5 seconds contemplating the issue.  If I gave it more thought, undoubtedly other, and perhaps better,  proposals would come to mind.

Anyway – two immediate issues come to mind.  The legislative time table, and lack of time to arrive at anything resembling decent legislation – and secondly, who will want to buy such entities without some form of long term guarantee of continued work from the State/local government?

If such guarantees are forthcoming, then these entities will most certainly be bought by those who sit snuggly within the patriarchy.  Is that then privitisation – or cronyism/corruption adopted under the cloak of promises to the EU and Council of Europe?

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