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The relevance of Ukraine's United TV Marathon is being questioned by journalists.
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The relevance of Ukraine’s United TV Marathon is being questioned by journalists.

For almost 24 months, a group of Ukraine’s major television networks have collaborated as part of the United TV Marathon.

However, as the battle against Russia’s large-scale invasion reaches its third year, skeptics are raising concerns about the effectiveness and significant financial investment put into the broadcast.

In February 2022, a group of six prominent broadcasters came together to provide around-the-clock coverage of the war. These broadcasters include Suspilne, 1+1, Starlight Media, Media Group Ukraine, Inter Media Group, and the parliamentary Rada TV Channel. Each station has a designated time slot for airing content, with prime-time hours being rotated among the stations.

Please watch the video by Cristina Caicedo Smit that is related to this topic.

When the Marathon, also known as the united broadcaster, was initially announced, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine stated that the broadcasts were necessary in order to bring together resources and deliver unbiased and timely information from all regions of the country around the clock.

However, there is growing speculation among journalists about the continued worth of the Marathon. Its significance was one of the topics raised during a press briefing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in late December.

A reporter from Life magazine observed that there is low viewership and inquired with Zelenskyy’s press secretary about the reason for the state allocating significant funds to support it.

In 2024, the state’s budget includes over $45 million for the Marathon event and the creation of TV shows.

According to Iryna Sampan, a freelance journalist for Hromadske Radio and the Butusov Plus YouTube channel, the Marathon places limitations on the rights of journalists.

Sampan stated that while it is possible to have autonomy and freedom in their work, it ultimately relies heavily on the United Marathon. The journalists themselves are expressing that it is unnecessary in the second year of the war.

She mentioned that studies have revealed that the Marathon has become obsolete and has fulfilled its purpose.

However, Orest Drymalovsky, a television host for Starlight Media, a member of Marathon, stood by the production and its quality.

According to Drymalovsky, host of the program “Vikna,” the Marathon had a significant impact during the initial stages of the Russian invasion. The chaotic situation, with people fleeing and a lack of reliable information, was exacerbated by Russian PSYOPs and a multitude of false reports.

According to the speaker, there was no interruption in the broadcasting and our system was not vulnerable to hacking attempts.

Drymalovsky stated that, in the second year of the war, they are actively engaged in significant tasks. They have access to updates and reports on the events happening at the front. However, there are certain details that they must be careful not to reveal in order to protect their defense forces.

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According to Otar Dovzhenko, a specialist from the non-governmental Lviv Media Forum and the chair of the Independent Media Council, the Marathon was initially deemed “significant and crucial”.

According to Dovzhenko, the Marathon was initially considered a useful weapon against false information. It was seen as an authoritative source of information that could replace unreliable sources for people.

However, he stated that the need for the Marathon vanished as the situation stabilized by the summer of 2022.

According to Dovzhenko, criticism of the broadcasts is shifting away from the cost of maintaining them and towards their perceived ineffectiveness. He also notes that some individuals in the media view the broadcasts as a means for the government to manipulate public opinion.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy in Ukraine did not reply to VOA’s inquiry for a statement.

Certain media sources have been excluded from the Marathon. Neither 5 Kanal nor Priamyi, both connected to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, nor the opposition Espreso TV channel, are included in the Marathon.

In addition, Ukraine implemented measures to shut down or impose penalties on media sources with ties to Russia.

In 2021, Zelenskyy issued a decree imposing sanctions on ZIK, NewsOne, and 112 Ukraine, three television channels suspected to have ties to pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk.

Journalist Olha Bereziuk from Gordon, an English news website, stated her belief that the shutdown of media outlets linked to Medvedchuk is a necessary measure for ensuring security and safeguarding the flow of information.

However, she expressed concerns about the control of the opposition media, specifically from Poroshenko’s circle. It is uncertain if they will be allowed representation and in what capacity. There is a sense that they should be given more airtime, and there are doubts surrounding the Marathon’s purpose and funding.

A recent report from the Ukrainian Institute for the Future revealed that 50% of participants did not tune in to the Marathon, while a mere 13% claimed to watch it regularly. Among those who did watch, only 14% expressed full confidence in the information presented.