Television is the most popular medium in Ukraine by a large margin, except social networks as a separate type of media. According to the study by InMind for Internews Network from 2018, 77 percent of Ukrainians watch television at least once per month, while 74 percent use TV channels as their weekly source of news. TV is also the most trusted medium - 56 percent of Ukrainians trust regional TV channels and 61 percent trust national TV channels.
In a more recent USAID-Internews media consumption study of 2019, other data are already cited. Social networks are named by 68% of the respondents as the main source of information, and 66% of the respondents chose television. For the first time in the history of Ukraine, social networks have bypassed television as a channel for distributing content.
Since 2014, the Ukrainian TV sphere has developed mainly in the information direction. New channels such as Hromadske (Civic), Espreso, 112, NewsOne , and Priamyi (Direct) are focusing exclusively on news and talk-shows about politics, economy, and society. However, all these channels, except for crowd-funded and grant-funded Hromadske (Civic), are private and have a non-transparent ownership structure.
As mentioned before, Ukrainian media have clear links to politicians and political parties, as they belong to oligarchs who are involved in politics directly or indirectly. These links are the strongest in the TV sphere. For instance, Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who is closely linked to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (his daughter’s godfather), allegedly controls 112, ZIK and NewsOne TV channels, popular news channels in Ukraine. Numerous journalist investigations have proven Medvedchuk’s connection to the owners of these channels, that often promote messages close to those advanced by several Russian media (most extremely, that Ukraine is a failed state, or that pro-European reforms are aimed at “selling” Ukrainian economy to the Western capital, or that the bringing gas prices to the market level mean an economic “genocide” of the Ukrainian people). However, they also invite people with openly anti-Russian views, which helps these TV channels maintain a veneer of objectivity. However, because of their perceived pro-Russian stance, these channels have also come under increasing pressure. On 4 October 2018, the Ukrainian parliament voted measures intended to shut down 112 and NewsOne TV channels, both of which have regularly criticized the Ukrainian authorities and given a platform to ex-president Viktor Yanukovych’s entourage and to pro-Russian views. The parliament addressed the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) of Ukraine, asking it to introduce sanctions against the companies that own these TV channels and to remove their broadcasting licenses.
As of May 2020, all of these channels continue to broadcast, although 112 channels became less influential after losing the digital broadcast license.
According to research by Big Data Ua, the top 5 most viewed channels are 1+1, Ukrayina (Ukraine), STB, ICTV , and Novyi Kanal (New Channel). All of these are infotainment channels, producing a wide range of programs for families of all ages. Basically, the composition of programs on all these channels is the same. All of these TV channels belong to different oligarchs: Ihor Kolomoyskyi controls 1+1, Rinat Akhmetov owns Ukrayina (Ukraine), while STB, ICTV , and Novyi Kanal (New Channel) belong to Victor Pinchuk, son-in-law of former Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma. The only non-oligarch-controlled TV channel in the top 10 is Suspilne (Public), Ukraine’s public broadcaster, but it sits in 10th place and reaches less than one percent of the audience. The situation with national minority languages is the same as in the radio sphere. There are no TV channels in national minority languages only (besides Russian), but there are TV programs for most national minorities at Suspilne (Public). The station’s branches in Zakarpattia, Chernivtsi, and Odesa regions - the ones with most national minority representation - feature TV programs in Romanian, Bulgarian, Moldovan, Gagauzian, Slovak, and German. There are plans in place to expand the number of programs for national minorities.
People with impaired hearing do not have much choice compared to national minorities. There are some programs on Suspilne (Public), which are accompanied by sign language interpretation and/or subtitles. In July 2018, Zurab Alasania, the head of Ukraine’s public broadcasting company, announced that all the programs on all the channels of the company - national and regional alike - will be accompanied by the sign language, but there is no estimated time for implementation of this plan. Private channels rarely do sign language interpretation (there is such interpretation on Priamyi (Direct) and some other channels, however), but subtitles are more common. Approximately, only 10 percent of programs are subtitled. There are more opportunities on the Internet. For instance, 1+1 TV channel publishes daily news programs with sign language interpretation on its website.
Contrary to the radio, Ukrainian TV channels are entirely unavailable in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and in Crimea. Ukrainians who live there only have access to Russian and local channels. For instance, the following Russian TV and radio companies illegally seized pre-annexation Ukrainian TV channels’ frequencies (indicated in brackets): NTV (Inter), Perviy Kanal (First Channel) (1+1), Rossiya (Russia) (First National), Zvezda (Star) (STB), TNT (Channel 5), TNV-Planet (ICTV), Rossiya 24 (Russia 24) (Chornomorska), etc.