Television Agency News (ATN) is engaged in television broadcasting and production of information programs in Kharkiv since 1993. Until now the ATN TV Company broadcast on Channel 7 ATVK under license series НР № 0226-м dated 23/07/2007, in conjunction with “Tonis – center” TV Company, which is actually owned by the Mayor of Kharkiv, Mr G.A. Kernes and the Chairman of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, Mr. M.M. Dobkin.
On July 22, 2011, the provider which delivered the ATN television signal to the transmitter located on the territory of RTRBC (Regional Television and Radio Broadcasting Center) suddenly and without explanation, unilaterally broke the contract. ATN TV Company then had to operate its own radio relay station (RRS) to deliver the signal to transmitter. On July 28, 2011 ATN TV Company submitted documents to the regional SES (Sanitary and Epidemiological Service) to acquire a certificate of hygiene to continue to perform the radio relay transmission of the signal. On August 1, 2011 the municipal SES inspection came to the ATN Company offices to check for the presence of the certificate of hygiene. As a result of this inspection the Chief Sanitary Inspector of Kharkiv, Ms. I.A. Zubkova issued an order for termination of operation of our RRS because of the absence of this certificate of hygiene, for which ATN had applied to SES just a few days previously. In this way ATN TV Company has been deprived of the ability to broadcast since August 6.
ATN TV Company appealed to two Kharkiv providers – the Kharkiv branch of “Data group” JSC and to “Velton Telecom” – with a request to lay a channel for communication between two points – the ATN TV Company office (4 Teatralnyi lane) and Kharkiv RTRBC (1-A Derev’anko str.) to connect the ATN Company’s transmitter, which is located on RTRBC property. However, after the providers finished all work on laying communication channels and they had to be connected to the transmitter there were incomprehensible delays on KRTRBC (Kharkiv Regional Television and Radio Broadcasting Center). Acting Director of KRTRBC, Mr. A.I. Dergilev required a letter, copies of contracts, and the presence of providers’ official representatives and in both cases delayed for at least a day the connection of the ATN transmitter to the communication channels of “Data group” JSC and “Velton Telecom”. During these two days, first at the “Data group” JSC and next at “Velton Telecom”, the “technical capabilities” to lay the communication channels to ATN transmitter suddenly disappeared.
Both staff members of SES and “Data group” and “Velton Telecom” providers state that they received an order from the mayor of Kharkiv, Mr. G.A. Kernes and governor M.M. Dobkin to prevent the release of the broadcast of ATN TV Company on Channel 7, where besides ATN, “Tonis-center” TV Company also broadcasts, (which is owned by Mr. Kernes and Mr. Dobkin.
SES and “Data group” and “Velton Telecom” staff members had received an order to delay in every way possible the resumption of ATN TV Company’s broadcast. Both providers’ boards came under pressure by mayor G.A. Kernes personally. To the board of “Data group” JSC Kharkov branch he said that if “Data group” performs the ATN TV Company connection to the transmitter, and ATN starts broadcasting then “Data group” will encounter great difficulties and challenges in the users’ network development in Kharkiv. To the board of “Velton Telecom” he promised big problems with development and with the cost of sewage networks, renting in buildings of the municipal authority unless they abandon implementation of the contract concluded with ATN.
Realizing that we faced a bureaucratic horror at the local level, ATN TV Company was forced to turn to the Central Sanitation and Epidemiologic Station MOH (Ministry of Health) of Ukraine to receive the certificate of hygiene for the resumption of RRL operation and provided all the necessary documentation. On September 1, 2011 ATN TV Company received the certificate of hygiene №2335\010911 and notified the Chief Medical Officer of Kharkiv, I.A. Zubkova and acting director of KRTRBC (Kharkiv Regional Television and Radio Broadcasting Center), A.I. Dergilev. However, despite this KRTRBC refuses to renew the ATN TV Company’s RRL operation, which is located on its property, and Acting Chief State Medical Officer in Kharkiv, M.O. Chegrinets, in his letter № 3.6.\6588 dated September 12, 2011 to ATN TV Company said that there are no grounds for reversing the decision to ban the work of ATN TV Company’s RRL. In his letter he says, that he is not sure that data stated in the certificate of hygiene №2335\010911 issued by the Central Sanitation and Epidemiologic Station MOH of Ukraine corresponds to sanitation norms and regulations, and copies of the certificate of hygiene are not enough and he needs the original.
Thus management of the municipal SES (Sanitary Epidemiological Service) blocks the resumption of ATN broadcasting and demonstrates its complete impunity with the support of senior officials.
September 2 at a press conference Kharkiv mayor G.A. Kernes, when asked the question whether the information was true that he was pressuring SES, KRTRBC and the providers, he did not confirm it but he also did not deny it giving reason to believe that he actually did exert pressure on government agencies and other bodies illegally in order to prevent broadcasting by ATN TV Company.
In this manner the actions of Kharkiv mayor G.A. Kernes, who seems to have the goal of the destruction of a number of local television media – can be seen as the abuse of office for personal gain. In addition to suspicion of misconduct, the actions of G.A. Kernes are an unprecedented form of pressure on media not under his control, and is a real threat to freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine.
During the 18 years of ATN Company’s existence it has became a leader of information broadcasting in the Kharkiv region. According to all polls held in Kharkiv in the last 6 years, more than 50% of Kharkiv citizens prefer watching ATN news. Also ATN has the highest trust rating among viewers compared with all other local TV companies. The results of television audience measurements performed by the GFK Company say that up to 550 000 Kharkiv citizens watch ATN news daily.
Since all of the above mentioned concerns the most valuable achievement of a democratic society – freedom of speech – the group of ATN Company, which consists of more than 70 employees, is asking you to intervene in the situation, to consider and take action in the mentioned case, to ensure a complete, thorough and accurate review of all the circumstances, in order to bring all perpetrators to justice as well as to prevent the destruction of local TV channels and the resultant infringement on freedom of speech in Kharkiv.
From the ATN group:
- Sushko A.V. – special correspondent
- Sirik S.S. – correspondent
- Shpodareva G.A. – correspondent
- Chereminova A.P. – correspondent
- Belokudria N.A. – correspondent
- Nicolaeva M.V. – editor of the investigative department
- Didenko N.V. – news editor
- Ievdokimova A.T. – principal secretary
- Necheporenko O.A. – correspondent
10. Vasil’eva M.K. – correspondent
11. Hudokormova I.I. – correspondent
12. Labskir V.V. – sports editor
13. Semenov D.A. – video operator
14. Shovskiy A.B. – videooperator
15. Pshenichnyi D.B. – lighting operator
16. Kononenko A.M. – lighting operator
17. Serik V.M. – film cutter
18. Kovalenko A.S. – program editor
19. Yukht N.O. – correspondent
20. Domovoi A.A. – senior video operator
21. Marunin Yu.L. – lighting operator
22. Borovskih E.V. – Chief-editor
23. Semenov G.V. – picture editor
24. Zhuravleva Yu.A. – anchorman
25. Demchemko Maxim – cutter
26. Pogorelov A.V. – cutter
27. Nestecho I.S. – cutter
28. Segodin I.O. – picture editor
29. Segodin O.V. – technical director
30. Solov’eva O.G. – associate director
31. Simnihin – hair dresser
- 31. Trotchenko L.A. – lighting inspector
- 32. Kidim N.A. – head of advertising department
- 33. Sirovitskaya N.A. – advertising manager
- 34. Guk I.Yu. – advertising manager
- 35. Baglai I.B. – advertising manager
- 36. Mesheriakov A.V. – advertising manager
- 37. Kashtanov – manager
- 38. Antonov P.A. – courier
- 39. Kotliarov V.K. – video operator
- 40. Makeev S.A. – security
- 41. Lipinskaya I.T. – accountant
- 42. Babina M.P. – accountant
- 43. Timoshko E.N. – web editor
- 44. Rubashenko I.V. – executive director
45. Chernikova-Berezdetskaya V.V. – web editor
46. Moiseenko G.G. – security
47. Verizhnikova O.F. – lighting operator
48. Kutsekon’ Yu.A. – correspondent
49. Darek T.V. – correspondent
50. Litvinov L.P. – manager
51. Roman’kova L.A. –
52. Kushko N.I. – scrubwoman
53. Lukjanova V.V. – acting
54. Vasil’ev Yu.S. – system manager
The next day, after ATN distributed the open letter, suddenly and without any explanation the airtime of two more independent channels in Kharkiv wa blocked, namely Television and Radio Broadcasting Comapny “Fora” and Television Company “ATVK.”
By contract these two channels were broadcasting ATN News until September 14. Currently in Kharkiv there is not a single channel broadcasting which is not controlled by the Mayor, G.A. Kernes and Governor M.M. Dobkin.