Ukrainian mass media outlets are mostly driven by their owners’ individual interests and thus serve as instruments to securing political and economic power. Corruption and lack of financial transparency further inhibit the healthiness of the country’s media landscape. The Media Ownership Monitor Ukraine, carried out from July to October 2016 together with the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), showed that the Ukraine media is prone to power plays, more than ever.
The Media Ownership Monitor pinpoints that concentration is especially high within the audio-visual and radio markets. The major four TV owners – StarLight Media, 1+1 Media, Inter Media and Media Group Ukraine – represent an audience share of more than three quarters. The top four radio groups even combine a reach of 92% of the audience in Ukraine: Tavr Radio Group, Ukrainian Media Holding, Business Radio Group and TRK Lux.
Those media groups mainly belong to some of the richest in Ukraine, amongst others Viktor Pinchuk, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, Dmytro Firtash and Rinat Akhmetov.
The print media and online sectors are less concentrated. Online media in particular offer much more pluralism and choice to Internet savvy Ukrainians.
- Oligarchs & offshore ownership structures. The country’s major media groups have very complex structures hidden offshore. Cyprus, British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Seychelles, Samoa, New Jersey, Belize are among the locations where some owners hide their assets from the Ukrainian public – regardless of a Ukrainian law explicitly prohibiting residents of offshore jurisdictions to own media companies. Shadow economy remains quite significant which contributes to an unhealthy state of the media market, where financial information is considered far too sensitive for the industry to disclose and thus remains intransparent.
- Political influence on media is extremely high. Some individuals control vast sectors of the country’s economy, and the media industry is not an exception. Political influence over the media remains extremely high. Ten out of the twelve most important TV channels selected for the study are linked directly or indirectly to political personalities. The radio market is equally marked by ownership structures too close to the ruling classes.
- Legal Regulatory Conditions: Light and Shadow. Some promising attempts have been made to shed light on media ownership, in particular through the adoption of a law aiming at greater media ownership transparency in 2015. Nevertheless, not all media companies have revealed their owners yet. Regulatory safeguards for controlling media concentration are still missing and the implementation of existing legal provisions stalls. For example, no objective criteria for measuring the market and media concentration have been defined yet. Regulatory authorities such as the National Council and the Anti-Monopoly Committee refer to the lack of legislation to assess concentration, as well as to the marginal level of possible sanctions. A lack of political will to reform and to regulate the media market, just as any other market, derives from the fact that politics and business are too cosy with one another.