EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian news organizations are busily enacting contingency plans that have been in place for many years and are reporting through-the-roof news ratings, as local citizens and the international world tune in for updates on the escalating situation.
Speaking exclusively to Deadline via a translator yesterday, as Vladimir Putin prepared for full-scale invasion, Oksana Dychnich, the Head of News Production for StarLightMedia, the nation’s largest TV channel group, said a senior committee of all departments from news, HR, operations and finance had set out scenarios a long way in advance.
Dychnich didn’t go into detail about the contingencies but told Deadline her news team is “doing our best so we can carry on reporting but feel comfortable from the technological, content and security side.”
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“No matter your politics, this is a time when the media should unite the country,” she added passionately. “That is our aim.”
She said the war has, in a sense, been in progress for eight years since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and contingency plans were therefore always under discussion.
“So when the situation became more unstable [over the past few weeks] we arranged plans with the committee,” she said. “It’s impossible to make provisions for everything but we are doing our best.”
Dychnich reported through-the-roof TV news ratings, while a spokeswoman for Starlight rival Media Group (MG) Ukraine said 25M households throughout the world have watched news today on its Ukraine 24 channel.
All MG Ukraine channels have pivoted to showing news in light of the situation, including international entertainment channels Ukraine 1, Ukraine 2 and NLO TV 2.
Viewers from the U.S. Poland, Portugal, Slovakia are tuning in to live news reports from Mariupol and the Joint Forces Operation Area, added the MG Ukraine spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, Dychnich praised the international media for the way in which it has covered the situation over the past few weeks. “You are helping us build our independence and freedom,” she said.
She rejected any notion that her journalists are being pressured to report the conflict in a certain way.
“We have an editorial policy and are pressured by no one,” she added. “We put lots of energy into checking all the information we provide and that none has been manipulated. The only censorship would be personal censorship from our own reporters.”
Dychnich spoke to Deadline hours before Russia launched attacks and President Volodymyr Zelensky, along with world leaders such as Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Olaf Scholz, declared the move an invasion.
The situation is a fast-moving one, with UK Prime Minister Johnson in the past hour declaring he will use a “massive package of sanctions” to “hobble Russia’s economy.”
On the ground, Deadline revealed cinemas in the capital Kyiv have been forced to temporarily close and the European Film Academy has contacted its members in Ukraine pledging support.
The BBC reported on a string of high-profile Russian celebrities criticizing the move including TV host Ivan Urgant, singer Maxim Galkin and figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva.
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