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20 September 2017
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OpinionUkrainian broadcasting in Crimea: do Crimeans need it and how Russia will respond

It is definitely necessary to launch Ukrainian broadcasting on the territory of the Russian-annexed Crimea. In addition to the all-Ukrainian stations, the broadcast will also start of those stations which will so far cover only the occupied territories, for example, Hayat Radio.

Over the past three years of Russian aggression in Ukraine, many have stated that it is very important to start broadcasting Ukrainian programs both in Crimea and across the front lines in Donbas. And now these broadcasting efforts are gradually emerging. Yes, it’s a bit too late… But it's better late than never anyway. After all, this, above all, is an element of conventional protection against information warfare. It is also our duty before those Ukrainians who remained in the occupied territory, facing a much more difficult situation than we have here in Kyiv.

From mainland’s Chonhar, the efforts are being made to cover the territory of northern Crimea and part of the Kherson region, where many Crimean Tatars live. That is, the efforts are aimed at achieving maximum coverage of districts, which had little to zero access to the Ukrainian content.

People living in the occupied areas, those who used to chant "Putin, Come!" start sobering up

For those who fled from the peninsula and now live in the bordering Kherson region, new local stations targeting this part of audience are very important. And overall, broader access to Ukrainian news content, in my opinion, is also very important for them, given that they are now in an informational vacuum.

People living in the occupied areas, those who used to chant "Putin, Come!" start sobering up. Access to Ukrainian news channels is important for them, as for the Crimean Tatars who were forced by circumstances to stay in the occupied territory and are now facing repression and complete uncertainty. They have absolutely no idea whether Ukraine remembers about them, and no clue about the news in Ukraine in general. Even more so, Ukraine is in a vital need of channeling its content to the people residing in the occupied areas as they are being mercilessly brainwashed by Russian TV propaganda.

It is important that both hosts and guests of TV channels and radio stations now being broadcast to the occupied territories consider one important thing. Kyiv may remain the base for all kinds of political intrigues, rope dragging, and swerving among the extremes, given a sufficient information field and a large selection of news content. But since Ukrainian news is now being transmitted from Chonhar to the Crimean people and IDPs in Kherson region, TV shows should probably play down on intrigues and uncertainty, offering clearer messages and well-balanced information. After all, there’s more than enough dirt flooding their minds from Russian TV screens. So now, everyone at least partly responsible for the content broadcast to the occupied areas should realize the additional responsibility they now bear for what and how is being said and shown on air.

Ukrainian TV channels traditionally offer a much better-built content than that produced by the Russians. So part of Crimeans, including Crimean Tatars, will watch Ukrainian TV channels just to get a breath of freedom.

I think that the local residents will gradually begin to return to watching Ukrainian TV. That’s because the Ukrainian media are seeing a gradual decrease in the level of ideological fascination with Russia.

We also struggle to get tiny bits of information from Crimea, obviously because the peninsula has been occupied by Russia. But even the amount of information that we are able to obtain shows one simple thing: after it became clear that Russia only needed Crimea to transform it into a military base, and nobody in Moscow cares about the actual interests of Crimeans, there has been some sobering up among the locals.

Ukrainian TV channels traditionally offer a much better-built content than that produced by the Russians. So part of Crimeans, including Crimean Tatars, will watch Ukrainian TV channels just to get a breath of freedom. And those who are indifferent to Ukraine, who don’t care whose flag to fly just to avoid hostilities, those who called for Putin to come and now feel that everything is not quite as they expected, will simply be watching Ukrainian shows out of curiosity.

It remains unclear how exactly Russia will respond to the start of Ukrainian broadcasting in Crimea. Russia has always made great bets on information wars. In this case, as a countermeasure, it is highly probable that Moscow will start jamming the signal. But we should not forget that jamming is a rather costly endeavor, even more expensive than the broadcast itself. In addition, jamming is a practice of the Soviet era, when "enemy voices" were silenced. Today, Russia's return to an actual jamming of the signal, in my opinion, would be too much of self-humiliation and too much of a spit in the West’s face. So I don’t believe they will act this way.

At the same time, I don’t rule out Russia acting on the principle of an unplanned signal. That is, they may launch broadcast of minor local channels and stations at the same frequencies with Ukrainian media, without even counting on whether anyone will watch or listen to them. This would be much cheaper, because this is not a total jamming.

Taras Chornovil is a Ukraine-based political analyst

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