Broadcasting of the majority of Ukrainian national and regional TV channels and radio stations was terminated in Crimea back in March 2014 during the annexation of the peninsula. Either the premises were seized by force, or broadcasting was interrupted, or the frequencies were seized. Restoring Ukrainian broadcasting to the annexed peninsula was emphasized several times by the Ukrainian authorities as one of the priorities of the state information policy as well as an integral part of actions set to return Crimea. In the beginning of 2017 construction of the telecommunications tower in Chonhar (in Kherson region close to the administrative border with Crimea) was completed, its official opening took place on March 17.
The new tower
Four Ukrainian radio stations will be now broadcasting to Crimea: Radio Krym.Realii, Meydan FM, Kherson FM and Ukrainske Radio. The new tower in Chonhar recently put into operation will cover the northern part of the Crimean Peninsula. This was reported by Serhiy Kostynskyi, member of Ukraine’s National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting during a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “The tower in Chonhar is 150m high and covers the northern part of Crimea with the signal of Ukrainian radio stations. The signal can be received in the northern part of Simferopol district and definitely in Bilohirsk. Channel 1 of the Ukrainian Radio (Ukrainske Radio) is now broadcasting at 100,7 FM; Meydan is also working. Krym.Realii will start in May,” Kostynskyi said.
Among the nearest plans Kostynskyi mentions establishing digital broadcasting to Crimea. Digital television will be set up as the “50th TV channel” and will be assigned a frequency. “We have tested digital television broadcast to Crimea. It will cover Dzhankoy district. We will need three-four months to launch it,” explained Kostynskyi. At the same time Ukrainian satellite TV remains available on the peninsula as well as Ukrainian medium wave radio stations.
Attempts to block Ukrainian broadcasting
Earlier the Minister for Information Policy Yurii Stets said that the Russian occupational authorities in Crimea are trying to block the Ukrainian broadcasting coming from the Chonhar tower. The National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting is working to prepare an adequate response, particularly to increase the frequencies so that it is impossible to block the signal. The Minister for Information Policy also said that after selection for the launch of digital television is finalized, the height of the Chonhar tower will be increased up to 200m. Stets also said he expects the start of the second telecommunications tower construction by the administrative border with Crimea to commence in 2017.
It is important to not only restore the broadcasting in the occupied areas but to physically protect the controlled areas. Earlier media reported that de-facto authorities in Crimea started radio broadcasting from the occupied peninsula to the southern part of Kherson region (mainland Ukraine). Officials report the plans to increase the height of the existing tower in Chaplynka (in Kherson region close to the administrative border with Crimea) up to 130m. It is going to reinforce Ukrainian broadcasting in the south of Kherson region.
The Law on temporary broadcasting
The Law on temporary broadcasting is key for Ukrainian broadcasting to the occupied areas as well as in the areas bordering on Russia and on the occupied areas. The law is currently being drafted. “The actual law on television and radio broadcasting was written to meet the needs of peaceful times, not those of war,” said Serhiy Kostynskyi. Assigning frequencies and licensing may take up to one year. “The law needs to be amended to allow us using the special broadcasting regime in some areas of Kherson and Kharkiv regions as well as in other regions that border on Russia and the occupied areas. The law will thus allow issuing the permission to broadcast temporarily in these areas for one-two months,” elaborated Kostynskyi.