June 24, 2016

Rada approves language quotas for radio


KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament voted on June 16 to set quotas for Ukrainian language content on commercial radio, approving legislation that served as a compromise between two bills – one favored by radio lobbyists and the other by language activists – that were rejected two weeks earlier.

The measure earned 268 votes and was strongly supported by all five of the Verkhovna Rada’s pro-Western factions, two of which (the Radical Party and Batkivshchyna) didn’t support the earlier drafts. They were sent back to committee, where the approved version was drafted by a working group that included deputies, lobbyists and activists.

“These aren’t quotas for Ukrainian songs on the radio. This is vital space for the Ukrainian song,” Petro Poroshenko Bloc National Deputy Viktor Kryvenko told Parliament following the vote. He added, “Today is a very decisive day for our state.”

The legislation introduces the first quotas on the Ukrainian language on commercial radio. The existing rules required 50 percent of a radio station’s content merely to be produced by Ukrainian nationals – and that content had usually been in the Russian language.

The compromise involves a two-year transition to Ukrainian-language quotas (25 percent in the first year, 30 percent in the second and 35 percent afterwards) for two time blocks, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The quota is based not on the number of songs, but on the total volume of content.

This gives radio stations more flexibility from the four six-hour blocks that had been proposed by activists to prevent radio stations from dumping all their Ukrainian-language content for the late night/early morning shift, as they had been typically doing.

The bill prevented exceptions for specialty format stations such as rock, R&B, classical and folk, as proposed by the lobbyists’ bill. At the same time, it set a 25 percent Ukrainian-language quota for stations that play 60 percent of their content in the official languages of EU member-states (usually English) in a 24-hour period.

The approved legislation also excluded the lobbyists’ proposal to give Ukrainian-language songs produced in the last 18 months twice their weight in determining content quotas, believed by critics to be aimed at reducing overall Ukrainian-language content.

A new requirement is that a minimum of 60 percent of the volume of spoken words on a station – including news and entertainment – be in the Ukrainian language. This, too, is being introduced with a transition period of 50 percent in the first year, 55 percent in the second, and 60 percent thereafter.

The law takes effect four months from its publication, after which radio stations voluntarily agreeing to boost their Ukrainian-language content by 5 percent or more will have an advantage in receiving licenses from the National Radio and Television Council.

The council will also be responsible for monitoring the stations to ensure they’re upholding the quotas, giving them the ability to impose fines in the amount of 5 percent of their licensing fees.