In the spring of 2014, the Donbass was locked in chaos, which moved into an active military phase. Everything went according to a scenario written many years ago – only instead of seizing the telephone, telegraph, mail and railway stations, "representatives of the people", first of all, seized state institutions, banks and television. That is - power, money and media.
They needed the latter to "truthfully" cover the events that shook not only the region, but also the whole of Ukraine. For this, the TV tower on Karachun Mount (near Sloviansk) was destroyed and the TV tower in Donetsk was taken under the control of the "DNR".
In theory, Ukrainian broadcasting should have completely disappeared on the territory of "free Donbass" after the triumphant capture of important telecommunications facilities. But it took another two weeks to remember that it was not 1917, but 2014 – a century of technical progress, Internet and satellite communication.
Cable television providers urgently obliged to turn Ukrainian channels off. They could not disobey, and left only sports, music and entertainment. As a result, a part of the population of Donbass really lost access to Ukrainian programs and news.
But can we talk about the information blockade? I think no. At least in Donetsk, Horlivka and Makiivka. Well, first of all, because the majority of the population of these cities are miners and metallurgists, who, as we know, always had good salaries and pensions. Consequently, most of them have already set reception dishes on the balconies and roofs of their houses about ten years ago. Young and middle-aged people have long got the necessary information from the World Wide Web.
Nevertheless, under the influence of the public, the government of Ukraine did not cease to make a big fuss about the issue of building new television towers that could reach the signal to the territory of Donbass, which is temporarily out of Kyiv's control. They say people should know the truth, and powerful television transmitters will be able to provide with truthful information not only the liberated part of Donetsk oblast, but also the occupied territory.
The project to restore the TV tower on Karachun Mount missed expectations: the design turned out to be 40 meters lower than the initially declared height, and the 20 kW transmitter is not so powerful to give a steady signal. However, since April 2017, residents of Horlivka, Donetsk, and the Chervonohvardiyskyi district of Makiivka have reported massively that they are increasingly able to catch the waves of Ukrainian radio stations – Russian Radio Ukraine, Voice of Donbass and Radio Tryzub. If earlier, these waves were caught quite badly only in the remote areas, now they can be heard even in the center of Donetsk.
From this time, the home television antenna in the border settlements receives a weak jammed signal with Ukrainian channels – 1+1, 5 Kanal, Ukraina and regional DoTeBe. But the TV signal disappeared after a couple of months. Along with it, the last non-political Ukrainian channels have disappeared from the cable television packages.
In the spring of 2017, representatives of the Ukrainian government promised that the construction of a TV tower in Pokrovsk, which will have a height of 220 meters, would begin full soon. It will increase the broadcasting signal by 200% and television – by 50%. More than a year has passed, but no developments have followed. Instead, a TV tower appeared in the city of Hirnyk without preliminary promises and announcements.
The project was implemented by the Television Network of Ukraine on its own initiative and at its own expense. The tower built has a height of 190 meters and is intended for broadcasting of eight Ukrainian channels and twelve radio stations into the occupied territory of Donetsk oblast. More than likely, the project is not yet completed, because the situation with Ukrainian broadcasting has not radically changed in the uncontrolled Donbass.
As before, the signal in a relatively standard quality is received by settlements located in close proximity to Volnovakha. This is upon the condition that the television antenna is directed towards the city. Ukrainian TV channels never appeared in the center of Donetsk; the signal is so weak on its outskirts that there are hardly any people who want to watch TV shows in such a bad image.
Recently, those whose signal is converted into digital by the t2 tuner left without broadcasting. Russian and local channels suddenly disappeared and Ukrainian ones appeared instead after a long search. To be true, with quite a poor quality of image. The signal disappeared again a few days later, the television receivers' screens gave out a search again, as a result of which the former Russian and local channels were found.
Regarding the radio stations, Army FM, Ukrainian Radio and Russian Radio Ukraine broke through on the air of the uncontrolled Donbass on October 7 (what is more, with quite a good sound). However, the experts of the "Ministry of Communications" of the "DNR" blacked out the signals of Ukrainian radio stations within days, and the residents of Donetsk now listen to the Humor FM and Rekord radio stations on the frequencies used by Kyiv.
Analyzing everything that happens to the air on the uncontrolled territory, it seems that a new game is starting. Some spend money, build television towers, get permits from the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting to launch channels in the DVB-T2 standard, while others are looking for ways to prevent this from happening, and black out the signal with all possible means. But nobody thinks about the fact that by and large, people do not need this game. Because most of the population has reception dishes and Internet. So those who are interested in Ukrainian news and programs find a way to watch them.
In this situation, it is not the lack of Ukrainian channels in the uncontrolled territory of Donbass that worries more, but how they understand the seen and heard. The people's trust in the media has long been shaken, and since 2014, people have been lost completely. The same event (shootings, outcome of the contact group negotiations, exchange of prisoners, etc.) on both sides of the conflict is being interpreted in completely different ways. You can hear: "Everyone lies", "No one will tell the truth", "It is not possible to watch TV" more and more.
But there is another reaction to the news, which is really disturbing and sad. It is more radical and critical – everything that local media report is in no doubt, and what is shown "from the other side" – does not correspond to the truth. And no matter how many Ukrainian channels they start broadcasting in the uncontrolled Donbas, the opinion of these people cannot be changed. It is worth working for those who are able to hear. But for this, you need to talk to people, and not to broadcast to them. And definitely not to communicate in the style of "you are the wrong Ukrainians".
How is it in the Bible: "In the beginning was the Word", and not the TV tower…
Liusia Molchanova, Donetsk, specially for OstroV