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Key trends, players & challenges

Ukrainian Regional Media Guide 2020

Using its vast media contacts and analytical expertise, Internews Ukraine, one of the biggest Ukrainian media NGOs, prepared a comprehensive Ukrainian Regional Media Guide. The document provides an overview of more than 400 regional media outlets in all 24 oblasts of Ukraine, as well as temporarily occupied territories.

Why is this Regional Media Guide unique?

  • Is the first-ever 2020 report on Ukrainian regional media in English.
  • Insider information obtained from over 60 personal interviews with journalists and media experts from all over Ukraine.
  • Covers the entire territory of Ukraine, including temporarily-occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as well as Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia.
  • Based on Internews Ukraine’s 24-year cooperation with the community of local journalists.

Get the Full 100-page Guide

Why Ukrainian media matters

Regional media outlets are an important source of information in Ukraine: according to a recent Internews study, one third of Ukrainians have regional news websites and TV in their monthly news consumption, while another two thirds include regional print media.

In many oblasts, regional media outlets are highly dependent on their ownership. These owners, however, are not always influential businessmen; they can be local politicians (mayors, heads of oblast state administrations, or just members of city or oblast councils). Reform proponents often bemoan the lack of division between business and politics on a national level in Ukraine; but on the local level, this lack is even more visible.

Consider the example of de-nationalization, or privatization (rozderzhavlennia): Ukrainian regional media is going through a difficult period of reform in which outlets (mostly newspapers) which were earlier founded and funded from local authorities’ budgets are now supposed to become independent and earn their own money. This de-nationalization is taking place de jure, but in reality, ostensibly de-nationalized outlets continue to covertly or openly receive funding from local authorities in many oblasts. This enables a city mayor, a member of a local council (which governs on behalf of the residents who elect them), or a member of a regional state administration (which exercises the power of the central government) to influence the region’s information landscape with the power of their office.

Some regional media outlets are aligned with major national political forces. The most prominent of these forces include European Solidarity of former president Petro Poroshenko, current President Zelensky's Servant of the People, the more Russia-friendly Opposition Platform For Life (OPSZh) of Putin ally Victor Medvedchuk and Opposition Bloc of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, Batkivshchyna party of Yulia Tymoshenko; the nationalist Svoboda party, the UDAR party of Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitchko, Holos of Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, and other more local political parties. This alignment often manifests in especially friendly coverage of the parties, their local representatives, and their patrons, rather than in an explicitly ideological bent.

It is also worth noting that the prominence of “key players” influencing a region’s media can differ from region to region. They can be nationally-recognized power brokers, like in Dnipro, Kharkiv, Zaporizzhia, and government-controlled Donetsk Oblast. They can be quite low-level – mainly in the less-wealthy regions which do not attract large-scale business or politics, like in Mykolaiv, Kherson, and in central Ukraine. Alternatively, they can be more locally-delineated, but by virtue of their regions’ unique political dynamics, rather than relative weakness. We see this trend in oblasts like Odesa and Lviv.

The dynamics of regional media development can also vary. There may be a vibrant news media scene, like in Odesa and Lviv. The news landscape can be modest, like in Zhytomyr or Khmelnytskyi. The media environment can be subject to substantial Russian influence, like in the Southern and Eastern oblasts; or it be immune to them, like in Central and especially Western Ukraine. It can be subject to other influences, like from Hungary in Zakarpattia and Romania in Bukovyna (Chernivtsi Oblast).

An especially interesting trend is the growth of new regional media in difficult environments. We can point to the successful CitySites network, which started from a website for Mariupol but then grew to a network of over 150 city sites in Ukraine and beyond. There is also an emerging network of rayon-focused websites started in Volyn Oblast and is expanding to neighbouring regions like Rivne. We can also look at how regional media outlets are working with modern technology and media trends by launching social media extensions; expanding onto Facebook, Youtube, and Telegram; and building convergent multimedia platforms by offering websites in addition to their traditional print or TV domains. All of this offers hope.

What prompts concern, however, is that regional media are even more subject to challenges faced by journalists in Ukraine: a lack of resources, dependence on their “owners” and other influential people in their regions; the great inherent volatility of their profession; and their technological lag behind peers in other countries and in the national media. The coronavirus pandemic has made their situation even more precarious. We will study the impact of the pandemic in our next report.

Get the Full 100-page Guide

How we made the Guide

The Guide is based on our multi-year work study with our network of regional journalists. In each of Ukraine’s 24 oblasts, Internews Ukraine contacted journalists and media experts. It conducted over 60 such interviews which, put together, span over 40 hours of recording. Then this information was checked with open-source data, such as other regional media reviews, information available on media websites, information on ownership structures, data from state registers, and data about media outlets’ audiences (especially with regard to online media).

Information in this Guide is structured by Oblast. Each Oblast-focused chapter has four sections:

  • General information: provides a brief overview of the region, its location, population and size.
  • Key trends and challenges: describes the key developments in the region’s information sphere in the past few years.
  • Key players: describes the most influential and important personalities or groups of personalities influencing the media landscape of the Oblast: owners (including hidden owners), local or national politicians or businessmen, and influential media managers.
  • The most popular media: provides a brief overview of the most important media in the region in TV, online, print, and radio domains.

The Ukrainian media landscape is dynamic, and thus information about it can quickly become out-of-date. Therefore, we have decided to make regular updates to this report.

We would be glad to provide a copy of the Guide, as well as present more detailed information on items discussed in the report, upon request.

For further details, please contact media manager Nadiia Ushchapivska at nushchapivska@internews.ua.