TVi Suspends Broadcasts After Reshuffle

KIEV, Ukraine -- TVi, a Ukrainian television channel known for its investigative reports exposing corruption in the government, suspended broadcasts on Tuesday following a shareholder dispute and a reshuffle of top management.

Although the dispute existed before and was handled by courts, the quick reshuffle indicates the Ukrainian authorities may be supporting one of the parties in the dispute.

“This is a classic raider attack on the channel,” Kostiantyn Kagalovskiy, known so far as an owner of the channel, said, adding that channel’s statutory papers had been stolen recently.

TVi, popular among those seeking balanced news converge and investigative reports on corruption, is unprofitable like most other television channels in Ukraine. 

Kagalovskiy has recently approached several wealthy businessmen, including billionaire Dmytro Firtash, seeking to sell the channel for $120 million.

However, no one appeared to be ready to pay more than $12 million for the asset, according to people familiar with the situation.

“My understanding is that some Ukrainian party has decided to take control over the channel through using the old dispute,” Mustafa Nayem, a host of talk show on TVi, wrote in his blog on Tuesday.

“It appears to be cheaper and simpler.”

Kagalovskiy was known to have the dispute with Vladimir Gusinskiy, a Russian businessman who once used to own NTV, one of the most popular television channels in Russia.

Gusinskiy was a co-owner of TVi.

Oleksandr Altman, an Odessa-born former advisor to the energy minister who now lives in the U.S., on Tuesday emerged as a new investor in TVi.

Altman, who appears to control security force at the channel, appointed Artem Shevchenko, a television journalist, as the new top manager of TVi, replacing Natalia Katerynchuk.

The reshuffle was immediately confirmed and registered by the Ukrainian authorities, raising suspicions that the authorities may be secretly backing Altman and Shevchenko.

Both, Kagalovskiy and Altman claimed control over the channel at their meetings with reporters and editors of TVi on Tuesday.

However, Shevchenko did not allow the reporters and editors to come on live broadcast to express their position.

This prompted a strike at channel, which suspended broadcasting and is currently re-running previously recorded shows.

“Today on TVi you will be watching yesterday,” Nayem said addressing viewers. 

“The question is that the channel must not be destroyed,” Valeriy Karpuntsev, a lawmaker from the opposition Udar group, said.

“The channel is one of few that are providing unbiased reporting.”

“That’s why Udar lawmakers are here to verify whether the acquisition has taken place or they simply want to take it,” Karpuntsev said.

“The situation is disputable concerning owners, non-owners and managers,” he said.

“We were provided copies of different papers. Some confirm [the legality of the reshuffle] some don’t.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal