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Marko Levytsky   Kyiv Post   20May99   Attempt to control TV and radio
Commenting on the situation in late March, newly appointed council member Volodymyr Tsendrovsky called the president's failure to appoint his four new council members an attempt to control TV and radio broadcasting prior to the presidential elections.
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Political spat threatens TV and radio licenses

New TV and radio council members
say licenses issued this year are invalid


By MARKO LEVYTSKY
Post Staff Writer

20 May 1999

As another political storm arises over control over Ukraine's airwaves, businesses that have recently started operating in Ukraine's politically charged TV and radio broadcasting market face losing previously awarded licenses.

The four new members of the National Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting, who were appointed in March by parliament, announced in late April that the council would not recognize any TV or radio licenses issued after Jan. 1, 1999.

In a statement addressed to former council members, the heads of TV and radio organizations, government departments and public organizations, the council's four new parliamentary appointees said that because the terms of office of their predecessors had ended in December 1998, they would not consider valid rulings or decisions made thereafter.

The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting issues licenses and allocates broadcasting time, and the president and parliament each appoint half of its eight members.  The four-year terms of the old council members expired in December 1998, and on March 16 parliament named its four new appointees.

However, despite having officially dismissed his previous four appointees, President Leonid Kuchma has yet to name replacements, and in the interim the old council, presided over by Viktor Petrenko, has continued to function.

Speaking to the Post, Mykola Knyazhytsky one of the new council members called this a clear violation of existing laws.  He said the old council continues to issue licenses and allocate budget funds to various privatecompanies.

Knyazhytsky reiterated that all of the council's rulings and licensing decisions issued after Jan. 1 could potentially be overturned.

"There's a good chance they might not be recognized as legitimate," he said.

According to Serhy Aksenenko, another of the new council members appointed by parliament, the statement was issued to prevent the present council from continuing to make decisions regarding licenses.

He also said that the council had been informed that all licenses issued after it received the notification in mid-April would be invalidated.  According to Aksenenko, any licenses issued prior to the notification but later than Jan. 1 would be re-examined.

The statement was also meant to act as a warning to applicants for licenses, he said.

"It's also so that people from the regions don't get fooled.  Petrenko LICENSES, signs a piece of paper that they pay money for, but it has no juridical value," Aksenenko told the Post.  The Post was unable to reach Petrenko for his comments.

The licensing department of the council was unable to say how many TV and radio licenses had been granted since the beginning of the year.  The employee who answered the phone refused to identify herself and said that no such information was available.

Commenting on the situation in late March, newly appointed council member Volodymyr Tsendrovsky called the president's failure to appoint his four new council members an attempt to control TV and radio broadcasting prior to the presidential elections.

"If the council doesn't resume its activities soon, Ukraine will experience executive power control of the flow of information [in Ukraine]," Tsendrovsky said, according to the Unian news agency.


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