Media Landscapes

Ukraine

Written by Oleh Rozvadovskyy

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Ukraine is one of the largest European counties, located in the East of Europe, covering 603,700 sq km. Its population is 46.02 million people, but there are only five cities with a population greater than 1 million people. De facto Ukraine is bilingual (Ukrainian and Russian). A specific feature for Ukraine is a lack of distinct measure between Ukrainian and Russian speaking information spaces.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukrainian journalists gained the freedom to develop; censorship was lifted and media outlets were allowed to earn money from advertising. The years between 1995 and 2004 constituted era of fast growth for media. Simultaneously, though, censorship and pressure on media and journalists grew. The death of Georgiy Gongadze, an independent journalist, was a climax that thrust local professional matters into the international sphere. Pressure and confrontation between journalists and government was escalating through 2004, exploding into “newsroom riots” prior to the Orange Revolution.

After the Orange Revolution, journalists experienced essentially less pressure from the government. But it’s still impossible for state that media are completely independent. Many issues remained unresolved. Owners often use their media products as “proof” of their status and shelter for business interests. They are known to heavily interfere in editorial policy. Bribing has become a common way of influencing content. Paid media materials known as “jeansa” [джинса] have became common practice and effective substitute for public relations efforts.

Officially, Ukraine has 30,000 periodicals. Most of those were registered in the 1990s and never developed. One of the explanations could be that media were registered just to have right to issue press cards as according to Ukrainian law, official journalists (not freelance) enjoy some priviliges, are equal in their rights with the official election observers, and have exeptional rights in obtaining firearms.
The most widely circulated publications in Ukraine are gender-oriented leisure magazines and news magazines. International investors enter mostly into the entertainment or infotainment (information-based media content or programming that also includes entertainment content in an effort to enhance popularity with audiences and consumers) media. General audience newspapers, news magazines and similar general-audience mass media are predominantly owned by groups affiliated with various political bodies.
There are about 4,000 periodicals — 2,400 newspapers and 1,700 magazines — published at least once a year. Over three fourths of the print market is controlled by 6 publishing houses:
Two publishing houses have foreign owners: Burda-Ukraine belongs to German media-concern Hubert Burda Media, and EdipPress-Ukraine to Swiss company Edipresse. The rest have Ukrainian owners. Segodnya-multimedia belongs to the company System Capital Managment (owned by billionaire Rinat Akhmetov) and Fakty i Commentarii to billionaire Viktor Pinchuk (President’s Kuchma son-in-law).
Lack of professional knowledge and deep philosophical and managerial misunderstanding of the essence of media has led to poor quality of managerial decisions. This is the case when venture capital is behaving like strategic capital without possessing necessary competences.

Most radio stations belong to large media holdings. Usually, there are no more than one or two competing stations in each big city. Big radio network owners typically pursue local radio stations. The big players include:

There is a lack of radio format variety. Networks depend on money they can earn from advertising and thus, just as TV stations, they target a general audience. Most radio station formats are heavy on music and entertainment. News content is usually weak. There is only one talk radio station on the market (Era FM). Most radio networks use the Adult contemporary music format. At the same time, audiences are fragmenting and thuscreasing revenue. This drives radio stations to look for new formats.

The main TV channels are holdings of big financial groups. The group 1+1 is the exception; its controlling stake belongs to Cyprus Holding Limited.

For most of these groups, TV is not a business priority. There is a lack of strategic capital. This can be attributed to strict and often politically influenced licensing schemes. Further, the law sets a 30 percent limit for foreign investment in traditional electronic media (some international owners, mostly Russian, overcome this limit by registering fictitious local enterprises which then own the media outlet).

After the Orange Revolution media owners were forced to abandon censorship in order to keep the trust of their audiences. But media agendas as well as editorial policies remain heavily influenced by owners and their affiliations. When an owner changes affiliation, editorial policy typically shifts accordingly.

Still, many media stay more or less non-partisan and to a certain extent. While many channels are unbalanced and often biased in their news coverage, the overall market enjoys the representation of a wide swath of views and political ideologies. Thus the consumer tends to either choose a favourite bias or consume multiple channels.

Most channels have a general audience as their target in order to raise the price of advertising, thus eroding their core audience. Most channels offer similar programming. Unlike the usual number of popular channels in many European countries (often three or four) there are up to 10 “main” channels in Ukraine. But fragmentation as part of general worldwide trend has entered the Ukrainian market; most TV startups are niche products (sports, music, entertainment, etc.).

Traditional media audiences are ageing. However, TV remains the most popular medium in Ukraine. Ukraine has a big territory and poor infrastructure; it will take more years before Internet will be able to compete with the TV.

Big TV channels buy or affiliate with smaller channels through capital participation or revenue control. Main market players include:

  • 1+1, 2+2, TET, PLUSPLUS, Bigudi, 1+1 International, UNIAN TV (belongs to 1+1 media group).
  • Іnter, Іnter+, К1, К2, Megasport, Enter, Enter-film, NTN (belongs to U.A. Inter Media Group, — controlling stakeholder is Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy, current deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine. Some media reports show Ukrainian billionaires Vitaliy Hajduk (Donbas Industrial Union) and Dmytro Firtash (RosUkrEnergo) as the real owners)
  • Novyy Kanal, STB, ICTV, М1, М2, Q-TV (owned by Viktor Pinchuk)
  • Ukraina, Football (owned by System Capital Management, Rinat Akhmetov)

There are 148 cinemas (273 halls) in Ukraine. The annual turnover is close to $65m dollars. On average, a Ukrainian person goes to the cinema 1.3 times per year.

Ukrainian cinemas’ income consists of:

  • Ticket sales — 55 percent
  • Snacks and drinks — 30 percent
  • Advertising — 15 percent
  • Five networks possess 60 percent of all general income. All market leaders have local owners.

The blockbusters are predominantly screened in Ukrainian cinemas, alternative cinema products are not often screened.

A language issue: in 2009 the Ukrainian government officially forbade screening foreign movies in the Russian language; screenings should be only in Ukrainian. This decision triggered the protests of cinemas administration (dubbing makes the movies’ premieres in Ukriane slower and more expensive) and Russian speaking viewers who perceived this as a violation of their rights.

According to a company specialising in telecom marketing in postsoviet countries, iKS-Consulting, the total amount of subscribers to mobile operators reached almost 55.29m by the end of October, 2009. Thereby the nominal penetration in Ukraine reached 120.2 percent. About 97 percent of all subscribers were clients of GSM-operators, and 1.9 percent CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) operators. The other 0.66 percent were subscribers of the only UMTS-network in Ukraine, from Ukrtelecom. 

In 2009 the subscribers’ base of GSM-operators started decreasing its rate of growth. The leaders of new connections got the operators of non-GSM-networks: Ukrtelecom (ТМ Utel — UMTS standard), Telesystemy Ukrainy (TM PEOPLEnet) and Intertelecom. 

The leaders of the Ukrainian mobile market are: 

  • Kyivstar — 22.17m subscribers (40.1 percent) 
  • MTS-Ukraine — 17.7 m subscribers (32.1 percent) 
  • Astelit - TM life:) — 11.86m subscribers (21.5 percent) 
  • Ukrainian Telesystems and Golden Telecom (TM Beeline) — 2.1m subscribers (3.8 percent) 
  • Telesystems of Ukraine (TM PEOPLEnet) is the leader among CDMA-operators (383,000 subscribers — 0.7 percent).

According to Internet World Stats, by September, 2009, there were 10.5m Internet users in Ukraine (22.7 percent of the total population which would be 2.5 percent in Europe).

The level of Internet penetration in Ukraine is approximately 20 percent lower than the average European rate. But because of market size, Ukraine is home to among the highest numbers of Internet users compared to other European countries. One third of all users live in Kyiv. The biggest cities — Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, Kharkiv and Donetsk — are home to 75 percent of all Ukrainian Internet users. At the same time, the most active Internet users (by number of time spent and Internet pages visited) live in Kyiv and western Ukraine.

The important disclaimer for all the surveys regarding the number of Internet users in Ukraine (different companies studying Internet audiences include Gfk-Ukraine, Gemius, TNS Ukraine, etc.) can name only the approximate number of Internet users because method to evaluate their quantity exactly doesn’t exist (it’s possible to count existing computers but not users and their quality). And Ukrainian companies cannot agree what method to choose. Therefore, marketing and advertising surveys can differ.

According to iKS-Consulting, as of 1 October, 2009, the total number of users of broadband internet in Ukraine (both private and corporative clients) was 2.05m. The number of private subscribers of broadband Internet reached 1.8m, and the penetration in households was 10.2 percent (in Kyiv, up to 40 percent). Between July and September, 2009, the number of private subscribers increased 180,000 or 10 percent. 

The biggest internet-providers by number of subscribers: 

The Internet provider Uarnet (Ukrainian Academic Research Network) is the wholesale provider (one of the biggest Internet providers in Ukraine).  

The total income from broadband Internet service in the summer of 2009 increased 3 percent, about UAH 539m.
 
There is a fight for administrative rights of the UA Domain Zone. A private person registered for this domain zone in 1992. In 2003 the Ukrainian government founded the Ukrainian network information centre (UA-NIC), which applied to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) with the request to reregister the admin rights for the national domain .ua.

Ukrainian media are moving from analogue to digital: many newspapers and magazines have online versions.  

Digital media remain less popular than their analogue counterparts; their audience is marginal comparing with the audience of the analogue media. But sometimes, digital versions are even more successful than printed.

Social networking is widely spread among Ukrainians (it enjoys one of the highest rates of social networking in the world, according to Yandex in 2009). Lack of trust in conventional news providers has accelerated the development of blogosphere.

LiveJournal is the most popular platform, and Ukrainian LJ users are fifth place in world rankings. 

Podcasting is emerging media in the Ukrainian market and is forecast to be booming during 2010-2011. There are general audience podcasts mainly focused on literature, culture and music and niche podcasts, for example PRpodcast. 

Television and radio in Ukraine are in a paradigmatic shift — from analogue to digital. The digital switch has not yet happened, but digital television and radio are being tested. Since May, 2009, digital TV have been tested in the capital of the state and some other regions. Now nine channels work in digital format. There is a special state programme intending to digitalise Ukrainian TV and radio by 2015. According to this programme, radios with the standards T-DAB and DRM are tested in some regions of Ukraine. 

Online radio has developed almost simultaneously as Internet penetration has increased. It provides alternative music compared to mainstream pop music (often Russian) on traditional FM radio stations. There are many homemade radio stations with very simple playlists but some newly emerging online radio stations are truly professional and compete as equals with FM stations.

Ukrainians used to be rather cautious about purchasing and working on Internet but as the popularity of different e-services continues to grow, it seems natural that more and more Internet users will decide to do their shopping online. Nearly one third of Internet users from Ukraine use online stores or auction portals as a place for purchasing various goods.

Ukrainian news agencies don’t produce but merely congregate news from various sources.

The largest news agencies:

  • Іnterfax-Ukraine — the branch of Russian news agency Interfax
  • Ukrainski Novyny (Ukrainian news) — owned by U.A. Inter Media Group, Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy (Security Service of Ukraine)
  • UNIAN — owned by Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolmoyskyy (financial group Privat )
  • Ukrinform — the oldest Ukrainian national news agency, state-owned
  • RBC-Ukraina — a branch of Russian news agency RosBusinessConsulting
  • LigaBusinessInform — part of Analytical Center LIGA Area of expertise: business and legal news

With a rare exception, Ukrainian professional media unions exist only de jure and do not perform the activity they are supposed to and are not serious stakeholders in media business.

National Journalists’ Union of Ukraine

It is the oldest media union in Ukraine. Founded during the Soviet period and inheriting Soviet structure and character, it is a conservative organisation with pro forma membership and activity. On paper it has 13,000 members and promotes journalism in Ukraine protecting social, economical and artistic interests of journalists. The union activities are not effective. The union cannot provide protection for journalists or establish the professional standards, but it maintains statistics useful for further studies.

Independent Media-Union of Ukraine

The trade union unites journalists and protects their professional, social and labour rights. It is working toward transparent rules for the Ukrainian media market. It was founded in 2004 by media activists as a result of integration of the Kyiv Independent Media-Union with local chapels. Independent Media-Union of Ukraine supported journalists’ strikes against censorship during the Orange Revolution in 2004. Since 2005 it has focused on agreements between media owner and journalists regarding editorial policy. Since 2006 Independent Media-Union of Ukraine has been a full member of International Federation of Journalists. It started and developed during revolutionary activities (2004) but was not transformed into stable organisation and is gradually losing its influence.

Besides unions, based on personal membership, there are also organisations, based on corporative membership. These associations represent usually the interests of media owners and have strong financial support.

International Association of TV and Radio-Broadcasters

The association was founded in May, 2000. Its mission is to protect the rights of  Ukrainian TV and radio producers and establishment of the legal basis for Ukrainian TV and radio broadcasting.

Television Industry Committee

This association is supposed to represent interests of Ukraine’s television market. It unites the most popular Ukrainian TV channels:

  • 1+1
  • ICTV
  • Inter
  • K1
  • М1
  • M2
  • Novyy Kanal
  • NTN
  • STB
  • ТЕТ
  • TONIS
  • Ukraina

and major advertising agencies:

  • Publicis Groupe Media (former DMB&B/Starcom MediaVest Group)
  • Media Direction Ukraine
  • Іnіtіatіve media
  • FCB MA

as well as prime advertisers, like:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Unilever
  • Procter&Gamble
  • Gillette.

Ukrainian Association of Periodic Press

The association is a leading non-government association of the periodic press publishers. UAPP was founded in 2001 and today unites 88 members, publishers of magazines and newspapers from all over Ukraine. The stated UAPP mission is to protect the publishers’ interests, to develop the industry with professional management, to build editorial standards and to provide basics for press independence. Its web page shows that the association serves more as a source of information but not as a platform for interaction.

Cable Television Union of Ukraine

It is a professional association of cable television operators, TV broadcasters and producers. Nowadays, there are more than 60 members but they are not engaged in common activities.

The Ukrainian Internet Association

The association was founded in November, 2000. It aims to facilitate the Ukrainian Internet development providing legal consultancy and government relationship. There are 52 full and 42 associate members in the association.

There are more than 100 independent production centres mainly focused on advertisement and music products. Rather successful are media production companies engaged in political show, Savik Shuster’s Studio for example.  

Public broadcasting has been widely discussed among journalists and media professionals for several years. It has not yet been realized because of political issues involved and lack of general interest from the audience and non-profit organisations. Too, there is a lack of professionalism among journalists. There is a possibility for state broadcasting to grow into public (as some politicians wish), but this raises the question of independence both financial and editorial. The concept of public broadcasting has been developing since 1997. There was a push after the Orange Revolution, but is not realised.

There is no public service broadcaster in Ukraine. Most Ukrainian media outlets are privately owned. The National TV Company of Ukraine (First National TV-Channel) and National Radio Company of Ukraine remain government-owned; their market share, however, is marginal. Each local government has its own local television and radio stations. These often lose audience to private outlets.

The Ukrainian constitution explicitly lists Ukrainian as the official language. Several legal acts oblige Ukrainian media outlets to use the official language. Since 2005 the amount of the Ukrainian products in media space has been constantly increasing due to stricter law enforcement and natural assimilation.

Licensing has had great impact: most electronic media (licensed by the government) products use Ukrainian as their main language, while most newspapers (formal registration) are published in Russian.

The main principles of media operation are declared in the Constitution of Ukraine, adopted in 1997. It guarantees freedom of speech and free development of media in Ukraine.

The main problem in media legislation is contradiction and discrepancy between different laws. These contradictions give the opportunities to interpret certain statements liberally and hence – to limit the freedom of speech, as some activities of the National Expert Commission on Morale. For example, lack of regulations concerning relations between owners and journalists allows owners to intervene in editorial policy and use media products to wrestle with competitors.

Ukrainian Internet regulation is one of the most liberal in Europe. For example, there isno definition of Internet media. This allows for transgressions, especially in copyright, spam and pornography. Moreover, Ukrainian hackers have the opportunities to attack foreign servers without any punishment.

For at least a few more years, the Internet will be more or less unregulated sphere because all attempts to strengthen the control of Internet have been challenged by media and public.

Main Ukrainian Media Legislation:

  • Law on Information since 1992, No. 2657-XII
  • Law on Printed Media (Press) in Ukraine since 1992,  No. 2782-XII
  • Law on Television and Radio since 1993, No. 3759-XII
  • Law on Filmmaking since 1998, No. 9/98-ВР
  • Law on State Support of Publishing Business in Ukraine since 2003, No. 601-IV
  • Law on Public Morality Security since 2003, No. 1296-IV
  • Law on Main Principles of Information Society Development in Ukraine in 2007-2015 since 2007, No. 537-V

Ukrainian media don’t have clear editorial policies. Professional unions and individual media do not develop clear policies to determine relations among journalists, owners and government.

The National Expert Commission on Morale mentioned earlier analyses of media content to detect sexual or erotic elements, as well as violence. The Commission tried also to control Ukrainian Internet content, but these actions met the confrontation of users. There are several NGOs developing the editorial standards and legal basis.

The Media Law Institute — founded in 2005, operates with the support of USAID-funded NGO Internews Network and its Strengthening Independent Media in Ukraine Program. MLI supports media legislation development, freedom of speech, and access to information in Ukraine.

The institute monitors media regulation drafted in Ukrainian parliament, develops new media and information law curricula for law and journalism schools, and cooperates with Ukrainian and international organisations to protect freedom of speech and journalists’ rights.

The Institute of Mass Information studies the mass information sphere in modern society. Established in 1995 by Ukrainian journalists the Institute of Mass Information defends freedom of speech, organises trainings for Ukrainian journalists, and monitors journalists’ rights and attempts or pressure inflicted upon them, trials involving mass media and authorities. In 2001, the IMI became a partner of the international watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders.

The Media Reform Centre was founded in June, 2002, on a basis of the School of Journalism at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Its main activities are: discussions, conferences, presentations, trainings, etc. The goal of the project is to initiate open discussion concerning media, striving for more transparent media and government.

Telekritika is a magazine and an online platform for media professionals to discuss ethical, legal and other professional issues.

Internews-Ukraine was founded in 1996 sees its mission in the establishment European values through development of successful media in Ukraine. Main activities: trainings for journalists, public events and projects to improve news quality, surveys, studies and monitoring. They are known mostly for the online media environment’s development.

The primary authority is the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine, whose main function is to ensure licensed operators comply with the law and issue licences. The Ukrainian parliament and President appoint members of the National Council in equal numbers. Critics claim this system gives an advantage to the government and may inspire politically motivated decisions.

In recent years there were conflicts between the National Council and local outlets of foreign (mostly Russian) television channels concerning language, extraterritorial advertisement sales as well as erotic and violent programme content.

The Council demands a 75 percent share of Ukrainian language in broadcasts (this is a licence requirement). Ukrainian broadcasters, who buy the most of their broadcasting rights in Russia or combined rights (eg, CIS rights), protested. It’s worth noticing that this regulation is often followed pro forma – Russian programmes for children or cartoons are subtitled with Ukrainian subtitles.

Other important bodies of authority include the State Committee of Ukraine, which works in television and radio to supervise state-owned outlets. The Parliament Committee works on issues regarding freedom of speech and information.

The National Expert Commission on Morale, an advising body founded by the government, also has indirect but immense influence. Although the rulings of the Commission are not mandatory, the National Council on TV and radio “recommends” that channels comply, making implementation virtually inevitable. The Commission is often accused the media freedom limitations and is known for odious cases, including an attempt to control morals in the blogosphere.

Sixteen Ukrainian universities issue journalism degrees. Traditional centres of media education are Kyiv and Lviv. But it is important to notice that during Soviet times journalism was regarded as a tool of propaganda and existing journalism departments are recipients of that system. Many are conservative and reluctant concerning changes. The Kyiv Mohyla School of journalism is an exemption — students earn Master’s and PhD degrees equal to those issued in European Union countries.

Besides of the traditional journalism departments there are also training programs for journalists, such as Program Digital Future of Journalism at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and New Media School MediaNext at Internews-Ukraine.

MediaNext (official title — New media development in Ukraine) is a joint Ukrainian-Dutch project, financed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Netherlands. The European Journalism Centre is a key partner.

Besides, there are plenty of business and private initiatives to develop media education and they are more focused on specific media. For example, Inter channel has its own school for TV journalists. Radio School was founded in Lviv in 2009. Internews held trainings for journalists.

Ukrainian media and journalism spheres are in transition away from the Soviet paradigm of media as tool of propaganda. Certain freedom has been gained, but is often used improperly and therefore can be easily biased and controlled. New forms of dependency and corruption are rife at Ukrainian media outlet is a partisanship in the interests of the owner, both political and business. Corrupted journalists bribed for media materials in favour of a certain political power or business is major difficulty for profession.

  • After the Orange Revolution the government ceased to intervene in internal policies of the media

Political pressure is decentralised and jarring. This means that factors forcing media to present the point of view ceased to exist, but some signs of constant pressure still happen. There are attempts to impact the editorial policy on regional level, and also, in some cases in central media. Before Orange Revolution, media were pressed through regulative bodies: tax administration, police etc. After 2005 the main method of pressure are corruption and therefore controlled courts.

  • Journalists are lacking professionalism. This brings both professional and ethical challenges

Ukrainian media lack professional journalists. The media market has been developing too fast and J-schools were not able to train enough students. Therefore many journalists entered the profession with little training. And J-schools were too conservative to prepare students for the needs of the developing market.

Investigative journalism is underdeveloped; therefore journalists cannot stand as the fourth pillar in society. Journalists often are under-qualified and do not have the educational role in society. Instead, they become agents of the society’s degradation.

  • Internet penetration is increasing

TV, which enjoyed domination for decades, has moved from general audience channels toward fragmentation and niche TV. But niche channels are not developed enough to compete with the Internet. For people under 25 years old, especially in large cities, Internet is the main source of information. Youth-oriented TV channels (for example music or entertainment) are losing their audience in favour of the Internet. But small towns and villages are not online; there is no wired connection to Internet and, if used, mobile Internet serves are for entertainment.

  • Self-regulation and government regulations are many, but quality is poor

The Ukrainain consumer lacks media literacy thus is often defenceless in a face of propaganda and manipulation. Media literacy for audience and explicit standards for media and journalism are the cure for biased Ukrainian journalism. Information insecurity makes Ukrainian audiences vulnerable to various manipulations, as during the war in Georgia.

  • Media market characteristics

The Ukrainian media market is quite unbalanced. Television has anywhere between 45 and 65 percent of the audience. Other types of broadcasts (radio, online) are marginal, as is the Internet, with merely 16 percent of penetration rate. It’s important to notice that Internet audience is marginal only by number, not by quality.

The most of the news content on TV and radio is moving to infotainment. At the same time there is no public broadcaster. Blogs and social media often become substitutes for public broadcasting.

Ukrainian media still don’t have precise standards of journalism. Unambiguous requirements for people to enter and remain in profession dominate. Partisanship, sensationalism, unethical actions, lack of objectivity: these are the main vices of Ukrainian media. Ukrainian media are highly dependent on foreign sources of information, especially Russian. A survey on coverage of Russian-Georgian war was the explicit proof how harmful it can be for the information security of the country.

  • People do trust media

Ukrainians traditionally trust media and therefore media outlets have enormous power to shape the public opinion. One of the largest Ukrainian analytic centres, Razumkov Center, does an annual study that proves that the public sees the Church and the media as the only trustworthy institutions (approximately 50 percent). These numbers are impressive compared to the fact that only 13 percent of Ukrainians say they trust the president.

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Oleh Rozvadovskyy
Analyst at pro.mova expert company
Dudaeva 16/1 Lviv, Ukraine
Tel: +38 050 317 29 00
Email: oleh.rozvadovsky@pro-mova.com
Website