1+1 CEO tries to explain why producing in Russian is better, but fails
Yaroslav Pakholchuk, CEO of 1+1 Media, believes that the decision to introduce 100% Ukrainian dubbing in the series will not yield any results, but will provoke the transition of "the audience from the TV to the uncontrolled segment."
In an interview with Detector Media, Paholchuk noted that implementing the decision "in the forehead" is inefficient and does not work: "If you need to cut off the TV segment, cut the value of media groups, so to speak. If the task is to create a strong nation, a modern Ukrainian language, it must be done completely differently." He did not offer a concrete plan for this, but simply argued that the state needs to give more money to the televisions.
His comments came after last week Culture Minister and former 1+1 CEO Oleksandr Tkachenko told the industry that it should stop targeting Russia when producing content in order to be able to rely on support from the state.
In his interview, Pakholchuk brought about lots of arguments to oppose to the opinion of his former boss, but none of them sounded convincing enough and some statements even contradicted each other. Also, the topic of the quality of Ukrainian TV production versus that of content coming from Russia was not raised. CEETV offers the most interesting parts of his discourse here.
According to Pakholchuk, "the problem is not in duplication (dubbing or subtitling) and not in production," but "the problem is in the very problem of the Ukrainian language(!), so to speak.” He then argued that 1+1 is one of “the most patriotic” media groups and he himself is “not indifferent to Ukraine. But given what society is like(!), technological development(!), challenges and opportunities for citizens, implementing decisions "in the forehead" is inefficient and does not work."
Then he compared cinema and TV, noting that in the cinema people have no other choice but to see the film dubbed in Ukrainian (which is what should happen on TV as well, based on the legislation): “And finally, it was nice to see how people later said, "I choose the Ukrainian translation because it's cool, bright, high quality(!), and more emotional." But in his opinion, outside the theaters technology changes everything and a lots of content is freely available online, so people have “alternatives”.
He noted that kids net PlusPlus lost its leadership exactly because of the ban of Russian content and the effect has been even worse on the generation that watches YouTube: “How many Ukrainian-speaking children's bloggers do you know? I don't know anyone. My youngest daughter, growing up in a Ukrainian-speaking family, began to speak Russian! It was a shock! Why? Because she consumed YouTube, and it is Russian-speaking, and no one looks at it or spends time on it," he said, probably referring to the government policies and the lack of content in Ukrainian online.
He then moved on to the music industry claiming that everyone is recording albums in Russian because they want to reach the Russian-speaking audience and travel for concerts in Russia arguing that the government does not create incentives to make music in Ukrainian and it is not popular enough. That argument also sounds frail given the fact that in recent days Ukrainian who are big music stars in Russia released songs in Ukrainian, while Ukraine’s song at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021 which is also in the Ukrainian language was a worldwide trend on the Spotify charts. Radio stations in Ukraine also have a strict quota to air Ukrainian music.
In his opinion, the quotas are populistic, and the end-result would be to drive viewers away [that has not been the case with radio] into “the uncontrolled segment”.
He did not specify what is the reason for this, even though the big channels in Ukraine still continue to produce and air shows in Russian with the only argument that this way they can sell them easier. However, as everyone in the industry knows, sales are not defined by the spoken language, but by the quality of production. And if several years ago, almost all Ukrainian Russian-language series were also aired in Russia, now only a few titles get sold there because the Russian market no longer relies on Ukraine as a platform for cheaper production. Alternatively, in the past few years the Russian market clearly moved away from the “melodrama” genre (which still dominates the Ukrainian channels with rare exceptions) and now exports series with cutting-edge quality which also conquer the global audience of Netflix and earn international acclaim at various festivals.
Asked whether they will fight against the quotas, the CEO said they will not because they don’t have the possibility to do that but will make their arguments not in a commercial way but “industry-patriotic.”
The CEO continued: "... We are not against quotas for the Ukrainian language, but let's make incentives… Allocate 2.5 billion hryvnias for the whole industry, which will go to TV series, cinema to a wide audience, and young performers - and the state function will be fulfilled. At the state level, this is not such big money. And in terms of content, its impact on society and the formation of ideology, the result could be grand. And this content will be shown not once, but many times over the years on various media. This is a strong state position."
“Because when the state says that it allocates a billion hryvnias for state support, the amount sounds great. In fact, 600-700 million hryvnias are allocated, including 100 million hryvnias for festivals and support for those who make the first pen test. About 200 million hryvnias go to festival films, which we hardly show.”
“In fact, today the criterion of quality and popular content is the appearance on national TV channels, because only we evaluate everything in terms of impact on ratings. Cinemas today show any product, platforms too. Compared to five years ago, today the state provides support, but this is not enough.”
Pakholchuk missed the fact that a lot of local films (produced in Ukrainian and supported by the state) had broken the Ukrainian box-office several times before the pandemic.
And finally, he contradicted himself once again saying: “To produce a lot of content and compete with its neighbors(!), Ukrainian television does not need much: 1000 hours of series for the whole industry, which will be broadcast on national channels and platforms, and it will be quality content in Ukrainian(!). That is, the state requires a billion hryvnias for TV series, provided that 50% of funding is provided by the channel / production, and 50% - by the state…”
Earlier in the interview, Pakholchuk denied that the satellite market (which was a part of his strategy for growth) was in stagnation, but a few moments later he said: “The satellite operators are currently sitting in one place… I will say again: this is not stagnation, but stabilization. We just did not want this stabilization that early.”
On July 16, new requirements of the language law "On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language" came into force in Ukraine, which provide for an increase in the presence of the Ukrainian language in public space. In particular, from now on all films and TV series must be broadcast in Ukrainian.
On July 23, 1+1 Media reported that it would broadcast films and TV series in the original language and would gradually switch to Ukrainian. This decision was made by the media group after viewers criticized the Ukrainian dubbing of the series In-Laws (originally produced and aired for many years in Russian).