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The History of state agencies in the realm of information policy

Recent changes in the top management of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine have drawn attention to the efficiency of state policy in the area of information relations. Permanent conflict between the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine and the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting has always prompted the question why the country needs two administration bodies with almost identical names. A certificate of press registration issued by the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting has aroused doubts as to what a committee on television has to do with this. The lack of strategic planning in the area of information politics remains a serious problem for Ukraine.

It is exceptionally difficult to determine the correct form for a division of information authorities between state bodies. This study was aimed only at trying to establish the changes in the information authorities since the beginning of the 1990s. The authors had to rummage through the legal base for quite some time in order so as to recreate the “dividing up” of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and other organs of power at least for the years since independence. The task proved, to put it mildly, to not be easy.

So, as of 1990 in the Ukrainian  SSR there were at least four bodies which “took care of” the mass media. These were the State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the UkrSSR on Publishing, Printing and the Book Trade  (Derzhkomvydav), the Radio and Telegraph Agency of Ukraine (RATAU), , the actual State Committee of the UkrSSR on Television and Radio Broadcasting (Derzhkomteleradio UkrSSR) and the Main Department for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press (Holovlit UkrSSR) under the Council of Ministers of the UkrSSR. Silence is kept about the fact that  Holovlit UkrSSR was one of the predecessors of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and not without cause. This body was created back in 1922. At that time it was formed under the UkrSSR People’s Commissariat for Education as the Central Department on Press Matters. The main thrust of its activity was in “ensuring effective censor supervision over publications in the press, as well as over works of literature”,

After Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence in [August] 1991, a process began of decentralization, readjustment of subordination, liquidation and creation of bodies of state power. On 13 May 1991 a Law of the UkrSSR “On the list of ministries and other central bodies of state administration of the Ukrainian SSR” was passed, followed on 24 May by the “Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the UkrSSR “On the procedure for implementing the Law of the UkrSSR “On the list of ministries and other central bodies of state administration of the Ukrainian SSR”.  This Resolution dissolved the State Committee of the UkrSSR on Television and Radio Broadcasting, and transferred its functions to the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company. The State Committee of the Council of Ministers of the UkrSSR on Publishing, Printing and the Book Trade was reorganized into the State Committee of the UkrSSR on the Press, while the Radio and Telegraph Agency of Ukraine (RATAU) became the Ukrainian Information Agency under the Cabinet of Ministers of the UkrSSR (later Ukrinform) and Holovlit UkrSSR into the Central Department for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press.

A year later, on 10 November 1992 a Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On amendments to the system of state executive bodies under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine” transferred the Central Department for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press and Other Forms of the Mass Media under the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine was transformed into the State Committee of Ukraine for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press and Other Forms of the Mass Media (although it was precisely the Central Department that was on the list of committees under the Cabinet of Ministers right up till 2004!)   With the same Resolution, the State Committee on the Press was dissolved, and its functions in carrying out general state policy in book publishing, the registration of printed media outlets, control over the fulfilment of state orders for textbooks, other separate publications, as well as the administration of film making and film distribution were transferred to the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.  However most likely the Ministry of Culture never in fact began carrying out the duties it had been entrusted with.  In May 1993 there was a new Resolution from the Cabinet of Ministers on creating the State Committee of Ukraine on Publishing, Printing and Book Distribution which became the successor to the State Committee of the UkrSSR on the Press (!).

Substantial changes began in the media realm in 1994. Firstly, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council was created which, although it existed only 3 months, several months later emerged in the form we know. – the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine. Secondly, at the end of the year a Presidential Decree from 10 November № 689/94 „On the creation of a Ministry of Ukraine on Press and Information Affairs” was issued.  In accordance with this Decree the State Committee of Ukraine for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press and Other Forms of the Mass Media and the State Committee of Ukraine on Publishing, Printing and Book Distribution were dissolved, and in their place emerged the Ministry of Ukraine on Press and Information Affairs.  The tasks entrusted to this Ministry concerned ensuring the freedom of activity of printed media outlets, and others involved in publishing, countering monopoly, protecting the national information realm, taking measures to develop the printing industry, etc.

In 1995 the liquidation of the State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company began, with the following appearing on its base: the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTCU) the National Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (NRCU), the state television and radio broadcasting company “Crimea”, the Kyiv and Sevastopol State Regional Television and Radio Broadcasting Companies, and regional state television and radio companies (TRC).  All of these TRC are coordinated and receive method provisions from the present State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine. At the same time, also in 1995, the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting was ”reborn”, and entrusted with “organizing the implementation of acts of legislation in the area of television and radio broadcasting  and the corresponding decisions of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council and bearing responsibility for its development, coordinating the activities of enterprises, institutions and organizations which fall within the sphere of its administration”. In addition, the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting was entrusted with drawing up future plans for the development of state television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine, and coordinating the work of national and regional TRC in order to ensure the positive influence of state television and radio on the formation of public opinion regarding the processes of democratization, introduction of economic reforms, Ukraine’s social and cultural development, providing them with methodological and organizational – technical assistance.

From the moment that the Constitution of Ukraine was adopted in June 1996, the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine and the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine became constitutional bodies. This means that the Head of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and the members of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council are appointed according to procedure set down in the Constitution.  A month after the passing of the Constitution of Ukraine the Ministry of Ukraine on Press and Information Affairs was reorganized into the Ministry of Information of Ukraine, and four months later the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and the State Information Agency of Ukraine were subordinated to this Ministry. This was to last until 1998 when they were subordinated instead to the Cabinet of Ministers.

In 1999 the Ministry of Information was dissolved, and the State Committee on Information Policy created in its place, this carrying out state policy in the information and publishing spheres. A year later the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and the State Information Agency of Ukraine merged into one body – the State Committee on Information Policy,, Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine which carries out all the functions of its predecessors with the exception of that same “organizing the implementation of acts of legislation in the area of television and radio broadcasting  and the corresponding decisions of the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council and bearing responsibility for the development of state television and radio broadcasting”.  In 2001 the State Information Agency of Ukraine turned into the Ukrainian National Information Agency “Ukrinform”, and two years later, on 28 January 2003 the Constitutional Court of Ukraine handed down its Decision in the case N 1-1/2003 following a constitutional submission from the President of Ukraine on an official interpretation of point 15 of Article 106 § 1 of the Constitution. With this Decision, the Court clearly stated that in exercising his authority with regard to reorganization of ministries and other central executive bodies the President of Ukraine … may reorganize ministries and other central executive bodies allowed for in the Constitution of Ukraine, not changing the names of these bodies and their main intended purpose which follows from the name. President Kuchma implemented this Decision of the Court only partially: the State Committee on Information Policy,, Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine once again became the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting as envisaged in the Constitution of Ukraine. However the second paragraph of the Decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the “main intended purpose which follows from the name” was not implemented. The State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting continued to carry out functions going well beyond the limits of issues of television and radio broadcasting: information policy, publishing, public morals, language policy and the press.

The next changes took place only at the end of 2005 when the issue of language policy was taken away form the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and transferred to the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. At the beginning of 2006 the narrowing of the powers of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting continued: the function of registering printed media outlets, aside from printed publications of an erotic nature, was transferred to the Ministry of Justice. Yet another “surprise” was provided by the “political reform”. The constitutional amendments which entered into force on 1 January 2006 changed not only the procedure for appointing the Head of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting, but also the name of the executive body: instead of the name “The State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting”, the new version of the Constitution refers to another body – “The State Committee on Television plus Radio Broadcasting[1], The small linguistic correction has important judicial significance. Now there are all grounds for asserting that the current executive body – the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting once again does not comply with that name which was envisaged in the Constitution, and the appointment of the Head of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting as a result does not adhere to the procedure established in the Constitution of Ukraine. Thus the Head of the State Committee not envisaged by the Constitution of Ukraine should have  been appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, and not the Verkhovna Rada on the submission of the Cabinet of Ministers. 

It should be stated that such frequent changes to the system of bodies of power were rather the result of the personal influence of particular heads who had the possibility to lobby for the necessary decisions. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to find any rational logic in the reforms. Undoubtedly the transformations have still not finished. In developed countries where the state interferes to a minimum degree in information issues , information policy is delegated to the competence of the Ministry of Culture. However Ukraine, it would seem, is not yet ready for this. And therefore we can soon again expect changes. The first argument for such changes could be the Decision of the Constitutional Court thus far not implement to the effect that the intended purpose of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting  should correspond to the name of the executive body. Secondly, voices have become speaking quietly about the possible creation of a Ministry of Information.

Ihor Rozkladai, Taras Shevchenko, the Media Law Institute



[1]  The difference introduced here is purely to avoid repeating the same words!  The distinction in Ukrainian is between two ways of saying “and” [translator’s note]

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