Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 claims series better sold in Russian
When producer of series and films at the 1+1 Media Olena Eremeeva said that the Ukrainian language suits only for comedies, while soap operas are sold better in Russian, it provoked a storm of criticism on the social media, with Ukrainians calling her statement “shameful” and “disrespectful.”
The controversy followed Eremeeva’s claim made during the presentation on Feb. 4, when she said that, for its new TV season, 1+1 Media filmed comedies purely in Ukrainian, while all seven soap operas were done in Russian.
“It is hard enough to find a tonality of the Ukrainian language for a viewer to take it (seriously),” Eremeeva said. “We have observed that soap operas in Ukrainian are viewed worse than comedies.”
Although Ukrainian law clearly states that movies should be displayed and distributed in the official language, Eremeeva said that Ukrainian actors are not used to working in their native language.
This comment has struck a nerve with the national film industry.
Ukrainian actress Nataliya Vasko, best known for her role in “The Nest of the Turtledove” and “Kruty 1918,” praised Ukrainian-language movies and voice acting.
“I have a beautiful language and I am proud of it!” Nataliya wrote on Facebook.
Crimean Tatar actor and director of high-profile movies Akhtem Seitablayev called Eremeeva’s words “inappropriate and offensive” and described her statement as a “smokescreen” for a desire to do business with Russia.
Eremeeva said that 1+1 Media needs Ukrainian TV shows to match the language quota, according to which 75% of the content must be distributed in Ukrainian. However, such series are not “for sale” and therefore do not fit the business model.
During the presentation, Olena Eremeeva also referred to the so-called “Antonina” – a collective image of the Ukrainian women.
“Antonina is 35–40, she lives in the city… television channel 1+1 is her husband, her support and hope,” Eremeeva said.
This also has drawn sharp criticism from the public.
“I do not know what command of official language the average Antonina has… but this ‘it is hard for Ukrainian actors to work in Ukrainian’ is a shame and deep disrespect to the society in its 28th year of independence,” Education Minister Hanna Novosad said.
On the response to this backlash, Eremeeva made an excuse, saying that her quotes were devoid of context.
In the interview with media watchdog Telekritika, she claimed that “it was not about any prejudice towards the Ukrainian language,” but more about production specifics of the channel.
On Feb. 7, 1+1 Media published a public statement to “prevent the formation of a distorted understanding of the situation.”
It claimed to be one of the first to create content in the official language and promise to double the number of Ukrainian-language product in 2020.
According to a recent survey, the share of the Ukrainian language in the prime time of the leading TV channels in 2019 decreased from 64% to 40%, while the amount of the Russian-language content increased from 7% to 27%.
“This downward tendency can be explained by the wording in the Law of Ukraine on Television and Radio Broadcasting that create loopholes for Russian content,” the report reads.
1+1 Media is one of the biggest media holdings in Ukraine. It operates eight TV channels, including Channel 1+1, which airs popular TV shows, including the ones produced by President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Kvartal 95 entertainment company.
The channel played an important role in Zelensky’s presidential campaign in spring 2019, covering his candidacy and showing re-runs of his shows en masse. The channel has also often reflected the interests of its owner, oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.