Ukraine threatens Russian TV station over daytime vodka ads

Ukraine threatens Russian TV station over daytime vodka adsKiev - Ukraine on Thursday threatened to pull the plug on Russia's biggest TV station unless it agrees to stop transmitting ads for vodka during daytime programming.

Under Ukrainian law, advertising alcohol on TV is only allowed in the evening after prime time, and then only as long as actual drunkness is not depicted.

Kiev claims that Russia's state-run Perviy Kanal (First Channel) is breaking written undertakings not to broadcast vodka ads and has given it until June to clean up its act.

"At issue is whether or not Ukrainian law is being followed," said Andry Mirnoshnichenko, vice-chairman of Ukraine's National Council of Television and Radio (UNCTR).

If the law is not applied, he added, First Channel would have its distribution licence revoked.

The UNCTR on Thursday agreed to find First Channel in violation of contract, because the station routinely airs ads selling vodka during daytime hours, despite a written contract with the UNCTR not to do so, Miroshnichenko added.

"At present they are breaking signed agreements," he said, according to an Intefax news agency report.

The vodka ads would have to disappear by the end of June, or the Russian channel would lose its license, Miroshnichenko said.

First Channel has already proved controversial in Ukraine for its pro-Kremlin programming, at times harshly critical of Ukraine's pro-Western government.

The Russian station is available on cable, satellite and its conventional broadcasts can be picked up in Ukraine's eastern provinces.

The UNCTR decision to threaten to block the Moscow-headquarted First Channel from broadcasting to Ukrainian cable TV customers - thought by advertisers to be among Ukraine's wealthiest and so most desirable television audience - was not an act of xenophobia, but rather a simple case of enforcing the law, he added.

"We absolutely support the appearance of (foreign) channels, but they have to obey the law," he said.

Ukrainian politicians supporting closer relations between Kiev and the Kremlin have accused Ukraine's generally pro-European government, and the UNCTR in particular, of attempting to push Russian broadcasts and language out of Ukrainian media, in an attempt to give the Russian language a second-class status in Ukraine.

Russian currently is dominant in Ukrainian entertainment media, and is a readily available but a minority language in Ukrainian news media. Most Ukrainians speak both languages with varying degrees of fluency.(dpa)