Zelensky’s leadership in the polls is good news for 1+1, CEO says
In an interview for CEETV and TVBIZZ Magazine, Oleksandr Tkachnenko, CEO of 1+1 Media, commented on the success of the campaign of Volodymyr Zelensky who is leading the polls three days ahead of the first round of the Presidential Elections in Ukraine. Zelensky is one of 1+1’s biggest stars and producer of some of the channel’s most successful shows through his production company Kvartal 95. Tkachenko noted that the success of Zelensky could be explained with his huge popularity and also with people’s disappointment with the political establishment.
This interview is part of larger feature story focusing on Zelensky’s campaign which will be published in the upcoming MIPTV 2019 edition of TVBIZZ Magazine.
Mr. Tkachenko, you are facing the situation where one of your biggest stars and producer of hit shows is running for President of Ukraine and leading the polls. Is that good or bad news for the channel?
In my opinion, this news is definitely good for the channel, as it confirms that the investment we made to promote this star was successful. Volodymyr Zelensky has both huge popularity among our audience and a very big trust with the voters.
International media often stress on the connection between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Kolomoiskyi. Has your majority owner been directly involved into negotiations with Kvartal 95?
He has been directly involved in negotiations with Kvartal 95 at the preliminary stage of making a deal and now takes part in the solution of financial matters. Nevertheless, he does not influence the content making and approval policy.
Mr. Zelensky announced that he will run for President in your New Year’s Eve program. Did that happen with your approval?
To be honest – it was my idea to make this announcement right in the New Year 's Eve program.
When did you find out that he will run?
I was informed in some time in advance of the official announcement.
As elections approach 1+1 news boast the biggest trust among Ukrainian viewers. How hard is that to keep the balance and remain neutral when one of the favorites is the face of your channel?
It's a challenge for us. The fact is that we faced very demanding requirements of the audience for content of the TV channels of 1+1 Media in comparison to the others channels during the last years and, frankly speaking, it takes us some efforts to promote TV products with Volodymyr as our star in them and to remain neutral in news coverage at the same time. He is part of our schedule, performs in many programs. And we're waiting for the premiere of Servant of the People soon. But we have never been a one-sided media and try to keep balance in the news coverage even in this situation we show interesting news about all the challengers.
1+1 is known for its criticism for the current president and has aired numerous investigations exposing schemes organized by people from Poroshenko’s circle. Have you been facing pressure over your reports?
1+1 is not the only one to criticize the president and there is a lot of reasons allowing us to do that. We're using the language of facts. If some other channels are not criticizing the current president it's a question to them, not to us. Using our polls as the base, we can state that the current president has gained the biggest distrust from the people of Ukraine. The pro-active approach of our media group on the questions of politics and internal affairs has caused some sharp attacks from the National Council for Radio and Television – unfortunately, a couple of times we have met the difficulties regarding issuing broadcasting licenses or selective application of law towards the group of our channels for the past two-three years.
Have you discussed how will your relationship with Kvartal 95 change, should Zelensky become President of Ukraine? Will 1+1 become “a tribune for his policies”?
We have never discussed this question and we do try to separate our business relationship from politics.
When Servant of the People launched a few years ago, it was just another hit comedy but now it really looks different. Do you agree with the argument that the series is actually promoting the campaign of Mr. Zelensky and should be treated as political propaganda?
I don't agree with this statement. The series Servant of the people is not promoting the campaign of Mr. Zelensky. If you delve a little more deeply, you would remember that the series, where Volodymyr plays the role of president, Mr. Goloborodko, was created and filmed years in advance of coming elections and exclusively for the purpose for further TV distribution as an entertainment show. At that time, even Volodymyr had no intention of running for presidency, there is why any political manipulations seem completely inappropriate for me. The current president can also write a movie script and become an actor in that series. There is no problem in this kind of situation, I think.
Have you exercised “creative control” over the stories and “political messages” in the series? Is this the moment where fiction becomes reality, and the role of President - the actual President?
Political messages in the series reflect humorously the real political messages people receive in daily life, but it is always important to remember that Servant of the people, first of all, was designed to entertain. For our part as a content distributor, we do not edit it and get a ready-to-show TV product, provided by Kvartal 95.
Experts agree that Zelenskiy has changed the rules of running collection campaigns; it seems he has effortlessly shifted from being a TV star to being a politician. What is your opinion on this phenomenon and what would you see has been the contribution of 1+1 in this respect?
it's all about the current situation in the country – people have completely become disappointed in all the politicians, who had been in power for the past 27 years. The opinion poll at the end of 2018 defined two of the most trusted persons by Ukrainians – famous singer Sviatoslav Vakarchuk and comedy actor Volodymyr Zelensky. What does it show? Again, it shows complete disappointment and will to see the new leader. This is not only the vote for Ze&Co but also the vote against the current political leaders.