Ukraine One Year On: Oleksandr Bohutskyi, CEO of Starlight Media

The Trace

Twelve months since the Russian invasion, TBI talks to Ukrainian media organisations about how they have kept cameras rolling in a country in the midst of conflict.

Running all through this week, we’ll be publishing extended interviews from our recent article on Ukrainain production (which you can read here).

Here, TBI talks to Oleksandr Bohutskyi, CEO of Kyiv-based Starlight Media, which is the biggest broadcast group in Ukraine, with holdings including STB, the comcaster that broadcasts local versions of global formats such as MasterChef, Got Talent and The Bachelor, as well as detective drama The Trace, which recently debuted its latest season on the channel.

Oleksandr Bohutskyi

What do you expect the upcoming months to look like for you and your company?

The victory of Ukraine is a goal that unites everyone now: the government, businesses, competitors in the past, people within media companies and our viewers, Ukraine and our allies. We know that our army is doing its best at the front to bring the victory closer, and we have to work, create, and inform every day – to support them and the country on this path. Our main expectations are the end of the war, and the possibility of returning to work without security, energy and economic challenges.

How best can the global TV industry support the Ukrainian sector?

We clearly understand that this war is a war against values. The values of freedom and democracy, respect for human rights and the country’s right to independence. We live in the most painful news feed. But we cannot scroll through it or switch the channel. In my messages to employees, I often say – we don’t get tired. Of course, not because we really don’t feel tired, but because like our Armed Forces, we don’t have the ability to just stop and put our reality on pause. The war continues,  and the Russians’ crimes against the civilian population and their plans for Ukraine and other European countries too. So, our first call and request to our colleagues from other countries are the same – not to get tired.

Do not get tired of talking about the war, recording these crimes, and informing your country’s citizens about the situation on the frontline and in our cities. The enemy must understand that the world is watching and the world sees. We know that the confidence that “the world will get tired of war and Ukraine” is part of the plan of the Russian Federation. But I believe that, like their other miscalculations, it will prove wrong. We can outstand and we must win, for the safety of all democratic countries and our common future. But for this – we all have to demonstrate the power of unity and common values.

​​Second, when this war ends, we must join forces to make the phrase “never again” a reality. This is a big task for all creators – to tell the story of this war not only for our but also for future generations. To tell it in a way that makes it impossible even to think that new crimes against humanity can be committed or remain unpunished.

For people, it’s not about entertainment, but about a chance to be distracted at least for a few hours, to plunge into a world where the main background is not war

In terms of industry support, the most necessary is, of course, related to content. Discounts for the purchase of content for Ukrainian broadcasters are very important now. Obviously, our production capacity is currently reduced due to the economic context, while audience demand for artistic and entertainment content is only increasing. For people, it’s not about entertainment, but about a chance to be distracted at least for a few hours, to plunge into a world where the main background is not war. This content now has a new, humanitarian role – psychological and emotional support.

Next, there is an equally important component of supporting content created by Ukrainian creators. Buying Ukrainian products and helping with distribution directly help the industry to survive, continue producing content, and of course, tell the world our story from the first person.

Of course, co-production is a powerful support. I want to take this opportunity to thank our foreign partners who have already decided to implement joint projects. We continue to create ideas, shoot in new safe conditions, and provide quality services. We are not putting it off until after the war, and thanks to this partnership, we are taking steps towards an even greater quality of our products and European integration – including creative integration.

The directions of direct financial assistance to the industry as a whole also remain relevant. Among the needs – for example, help with paying for research, which is necessary for functioning and understanding the needs of the audience.

Last, but not least, is the rejection of everything Russian. All Russians who did not directly oppose the war are complicit in this crime. Continuing cooperation and showing Russian content means tolerating the killing of civilians and the destruction of our cities.

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