Experts: First, ensure transparency and effective regulation of the media market, then ban political advertising



Activists discuss pros and cons of political advertisement in different types of media. Many lean towards banning or restricting it, though take into account the legislators are unlikely to legally prohibit ads helping them to win elections.

Kyiv, August 12, 2016. Media market in Ukraine is extremely non-transparent. This is the biggest obstacle to high-quality balanced information. “Media exist due to subsidies and investments rather than earn on advertising. Media market requires an effective regulation system,” pointed out Oksana Romaniuk, executive director of the Institute of Mass Information during the discussion in Ukraine Crisis Media Center. She believes that it is necessary to limit political advertising blocks, because ads should be meaningful and should inform instead of creating a picture. Ms. Romaniuk is also convinced that the Ukrainian media market is very inflated. “There are over five thousand print media, over a thousand television and radio organizations. This numbers kill any competition on the market and deprive the media of opportunities to earn on advertising,” believes Oksana Romaniuk. She added that only after achieving transparency, it is possible to talk about a total ban on political advertising.

According to Pavlo Moiseyev, director on legal issues, “Internews Ukraine,” currently there is no institution in Ukraine that would undertake to implement the necessary changes. “They are winning elections under these laws. Therefore, they have no motivation to change things,” he explained. Mr. Moiseyev stands for banning political advertising. In his opinion, in this case politicians will have to establish real local communities and to campaign without media, and the latter will not be so dependent on money earned from elections.

Tetyana Lebedeva, honorary head of the Independent Association of Broadcasters, believes that the new legislation will not help unless the appropriate punishment for violations is administered. However, it is dangerous to give regulators extensive rights. “I do not understand how it is possible to enable the law enforcement agencies to track content. They have no proper expertise. It is necessary to involve experts who know much about standards,” noted Ms. Lebedeva.

According to Denys Kovryzhenko, senior legal advisor at IFES Ukraine, Ukraine has two major problems: high cost of ads placement and campaigns as well as populism and manipulation. “Political advertising is normally regulated by legislation, it sets standards. The problem is the lack of effective regulatory bodies and strong law enforcement system. There are no adequate sanctions,” he added.

Taras Shevchenko, co-head of the Reanimation Package of Reforms Council, director of the Center for Democracy and Rule of Law, proposes to allow plugola in the print media. “They have the right to editorial policy, to support the persons whom they deem it necessary to support,” he explained. At the same time all materials on television and radio must be balanced. According to Mr. Shevchenko, any ban on political advertising should be imposed to the point rather than formally. He outlined three modes, which have to act as the law: news with editorial freedom, but also with balance and the National Council’s control over such a balance; special election programs: debates, talk-shows with a designated format and clear limitations prescribed by law; everything else used on the principle of equal access.

Galyna Petrenko, director of the NGO “Detector Media,” noted that the prohibition of political advertising will only activate plugola and will freeze the situation for the major players’ benefit. She stands for the limitations of such content. “Ideally, political advertising should not be so emotional and should convey rational messages. Instead of being emotional, short clips should last for two minutes and should be united by one story,” said Ms. Petrenko.