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Officials decry foreign media 'filth'

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Feb. 18, 1999, 1 a.m. |
Parliament is considering new policies on the media this month, as deputies have complained about the extent of foreign influence, the overall poor quality of television programming and the predominance of the Russian language. Parliament on Feb. 16 adopted a resolution calling for a national media policy and information laws that would give tax breaks to local media and limit foreign presence in the broadcasting and publication market. The resolution also provided for an examination into possible psychological harm to viewers of television programs filled with sex and violence, and called for a ban on such programming, according to Vasily Ivanina, executive secretary of the parliament's Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information. Ivanina would not elaborate on the details of the new media laws being considered. He said they would involve tax cuts for the local media on paper and printing, and some kind of monitoring to protect the local media from 'filth.' While complaining that the present law restricting foreign ownership of Ukrainian TV channels to 30 percent was inadequate, he promised that foreign media investment would not be curtailed. 'We aren't preparing to limit anyone, but we are preserving the state interests,' Ivanina said. 'These foreign firms bring in wonderful equipment and look at the horrible films they show,' he said. 'I think no other country would want to watch them. Blood, racing, murder, pornography, sex - that's all we see on the screen. I want to see good films, like Gone with the Wind, but of course good films cost more.' Gennady Genapidchtar, a director at the media support center IREX ProMedia, was unimpressed by the committee's proposals, which he said were too vague and numerous. 'It really looks ridiculous and shows they do not have any idea what to do,' Genapidchtar said. He defended the foreign-owned private channels, saying they were much better than state ones. 'There's nothing to substitute [for them],' he said. 'From the consumers' point of view, the quality on private channels is much higher than on government TV.' The resolution also requires President Leonid Kuchma to appoint an information minister, while Kuchma's government has been calling for the ministry's dissolution. Fourteen editors from major Ukrainian newspapers met with Kuchma recently, suggesting that the ministry, which grants publication and broadcasting licenses, be expanded instead of dissolved. They suggested its name be changed to the 'Information Policy Ministry,' and be given a mandate to offer legal support to the media and work on the details of a national media policy, Interfax reported. Ivanina suggested that the Information Ministry serve as a media monitor, ensuring the media stay within the limits defined by the national media policy. He also suggested that the powers of the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting should be widened to not only grant broadcasting licenses but also revoke them if license holders violate broadcasting laws. The first deputy chairman of the broadcasting council, Mykola Slobodian, has invited viewers and listeners to report broadcasts 'that are filled with violence, cruelty and sexual immorality,' according to Interfax. The report said the council had also urged TV and radio broadcasters to replace such offensive material with national films and music. Foreign imports of questionable quality have not been the only media under attack. In an address to parliament on Feb. 9, first deputy information minister Oleh Bai deplored the predominance of Russian-language media in Ukraine, saying they comprised over 60 percent of the country's media. Bai also inveighed against the 'informational, political and cultural expansion' of other countries into Ukraine. And during a Feb. 15 speech introducing the week-long 'All-Ukrainian Days of Press and Books' conference in Kyiv, Vasyl Horabets, head of the Information Ministry's mass media department, said Russian-language publications outnumber Ukrainian ones by a ratio of 54 to 7. 'These are horrible figures,' he said. The conference, which promoted the use of the Ukrainian language in print media, featured an 'all-Ukrainian meeting of editors of Ukrainian-language publications' and a competition called 'Ukrainian language - State language.' The event's competitions - with categories for best books, newspapers and magazines - were technically open to publications in both languages, but organizers said it was unlikely the Russian-language press would win any awards. Ivanina said the Committee for Freedom of Speech and Information did not take a stand on the use of Russian or Ukrainian language in the media. 'We're not talking about whether [the media are] Russian language or English language,' Ivanina said. 'We're talking about the fact that we get the worst [media].'
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