Contribution of information broadcasting of Ukraine to the process of reintegration of Donbas

Contribution of information broadcasting of Ukraine to the process of reintegration of Donbas

From the first days as President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky stated that it was necessary to form a proactive position in the area of information policy regarding certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (hereinafter - CADLR) and the Crimea. One of the possible tools for achieving this goal should be a new TV channel for non-controlled and annexed territories, which will be based on the platform of broadcasting in a foreign language.

This channel began broadcasting in test mode in March this year. The program broadcasting network of the channel is still being formed, but the authorities involved in its creation have already informed that most of the airtime will be devoted to entertaining content provided by large Ukrainian private media groups.

It is planned to broadcast sports events, including football matches with the teams which before the war were based in the cities of the Donbas captured by the Russian Federation in 2014. Popular and well-known TV presenters will be involved in broadcasting.

“This channel will have the most premium content available in Ukraine. These are serials, talk shows, and entertaining shows, for example, football matches, various sports broadcasts, etc.” said Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Kirill Tymoshenko.

At the moment, the major part of the broadcasting time will not be devoted to political news. Sociological studies indicate that there is a shortage of positive news from the territory under control. In this situation, requirements to news content are increasing.

A wide range of entertainment material should attract as many viewers as possible, and the news should be used carefully and dosed to convey as briefly and meaningfully as possible information about events in Ukraine and in the CADLR to citizens living in the uncontrolled territory. That would inform the people and disprove the Russian propaganda.

At the same time, it is advisable not to engage in direct controversy or polemics with individual media persons or “official” sources, but to insert the necessary counter-theses into presented video content. For this, it is important to understand the main points of local propaganda broadcast on local and Russian television.

The purpose of this study is to identify and demonstrate, with the help of the analysis of the above-mentioned mass media, the mechanisms of formation and transformation of the CADLR ideologies as tools for manipulating public consciousness through the mass media.

Information policy of DII TV channels

On the territory of the Donetsk region, which is controlled by “the DNR” group, there are 5 regional TV channels: "Oplot", "Oplot 2", "Novorossiya", "First Republican" and "Union" (the information of March 1, 2020).

Among them, "Oplot" is positioned as an informational channel , and "Oplot 2" as an exclusively entertaining one. The rest of the “DNR” grouping’s TV channels have an information and entertainment concept of broadcasting. Thus, “the DNR” has a complex of media, covering the audience of all genres of television.

The monitoring of some information programs of “the DNR” (First Republican, Novorossiya and Union) channels conducted by the analytical department of the NGO Donetsk Institute of Information during the period from September 2 to October 31, 2019 shows that these media are used by “the DNR" in order to shape the political mood of the population in the occupied territories.

Propaganda analysis

In order to identify the main points of local propaganda, the think tank of the Donetsk Institute of Information studied programs of public and political orientation aired on local television during September — October 2019, and a total of 41 videos were analyzed.

The main critical theses on the political and economic situation in Ukraine can be grouped into several main groups:

Thesis from CADLRs’ media DII’s counter-theses 
The Ukrainian authorities do not want peace The Ukrainian authorities emphasize that there is only the peaceful way of resolving the conflict and use all possible international platforms for this purpose
Ukraine is under external control Ukraine receives international financial and technical assistance from more powerful allies, but is independent in making its own political decisions
Ukraine is run by nationalists and neo-Nazis Nationalist political parties did not enter the Parliament in the last election and have always been an absolute minority
There is no legal authority in Ukraine; oligarchs run the country The Ukrainian authorities have consistently pursued the policy of reducing the influence of oligarchs on the political sphere (privatization, reforms of the management of state-owned companies)
Ukraine is a failed state For the 6th year, Ukraine has effectively restrained the political, economic and military pressure of one of the world powers —  the Russian Federation. A failed state would not be able to cope with this task
The Russian Federation is not a party to the conflict; peace requires direct talks with the militants The Russian Federation has an absolute and decisive influence on the militants, it is internationally recognized that certain areas of the Donbas are under effective control of the Russian Federation
The Ukrainian military are aggressive towards the residents of the Donbas According to sociological surveys, the level of trust in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is increasing among the residents of the Donbas
People who left the uncontrolled territory and criticize the CADLR authorities are not trustworthy Any safe public criticism of self-proclaimed authorities is possible only outside the territory of the CADLR

Features of the new TV channel

The monitoring group conducted expert surveys of journalists and media managers on the features of the activities of the new Home TV channel. Some of the respondents highlighted the entertaining concept of the new TV channel.

In the absence of a real political competition and discussion in the uncontrolled territory, there is a demand for political shows and public policy. This is indirectly indicated by the relatively high popularity of some purely Ukrainian news channels, such as NewsONE, in the uncontrolled territories.

According to experts, in the uncontrolled territory there may be a real demand for discussions with the participation of Ukrainian top politicians, discussions which have  elements of post-conflict analysis. There is also a demand for the ways to search missing and killed people, and more. There is a demand to explain the ways of interaction with Ukrainian state structures, to explain how to enter universities in the controlled territory and to obtain administrative services.

The analysis of the election results in the regions of Ukraine bordering on Russian showed that Russian television has an impact on Ukrainian voters with pro-Russian views and can effectively stimulate support for certain political parties.

At the same time, these TV channels have an opposite influence on Ukrainian citizens who are not loyal to Russia. These channels make citizens develop a biased opinion about Ukrainian political forces — partners of the Russian Federation.

This gives rise to the hypothesis that there is a reverse tendency - it is equally difficult to influence a person with a position loyal to Russia with the help of propaganda.

At present, there are no accurate and reliable sociological surveys on public opinion in uncontrolled territories as any sociological surveys are difficult to conduct under the military authoritarian regime: it is not possible to conduct open polls and expect complete openness on the part of respondents.

However, it can be argued that part of the population, which is under the absolute influence of Russian and local propaganda media to one extent or another, supports certain theses of the Russian authorities. In particular, the need to give autonomy to some areas of the Donbas, or even the need for their direct integration into Russia.

In such circumstances, it is advisable to use journalism standards and maximize ideological neutrality while effectively promoting the position of the Ukrainian authorities and society with respect to this issue in order to effectively influence public opinion and encourage support for the process of regaining control of the Ukrainian authorities. This surprisingly difficult task requires editorial attention and care on the part of journalists when working with sources.

Recommendations for the production of media content for the CADLR:

  1. Contextual denial of misinformation without direct controversy with the CADLR administrations and their media representatives.
  2. Gradual inclusion of public political discussion programs with elements aimed at overcoming the conflict in the public broadcasting network for the CADLR.
  3. The inclusion of investigative journalism concerning the life of the CADLR administration "leaders" in the broadcast of state television for the CADLR.