Radio NV takes to airwaves with aim of improving public dialogue
For several months now, the weekly newsmagazine Novoye Vremya has been speaking to their audience — literally.
Because as the rest of the media world ventured into new digital formats, Ukraine’s most popular current affairs magazine went for one of the oldest mediums — and launched its own radio station in March.
The new station Radio NV aims to bring quality talk radio content to the market dominated by music stations — and make some profit in the process.
For Vitalii Sych, the chief editor of Novoye Vremya since its launch in 2014, adding a radio station to the company’s portfolio made a lot of sense. It gave the Novoe Vremya (New Time) access to the audience that is big and tough for a magazine to reach — drivers.
“Just think of it, you are informed on what is going in the world by the time you arrive to work in the morning, just by listening to the radio in the car,” Sych says. “Isn’t it comfortable?”
This audience attracts advertising clients, Sych told the Kyiv Post. If people can buy cars, they can afford products from radio commercials.
Thus Radio NV — a national 24-hour news and talk radio station — started broadcasting on March 12.
The new station is based on an old one, Radio Era, which was acquired in September by Novoe Vremya’s investor, Dragon Capital. The Kyiv-based investment bank, headed by Czech national Tomas Fiala, paid an undisclosed sum for what had been Ukraine’s oldest talk radio station.
The station, which had an audience of about 500,000 in 40 cities throughout Ukraine, was then rebranded, and Radio NV now has little in common with its predecessor. The new stationpartly mirrors the content of the Novoye Vremya weekly Russian-language magazine and bilingual news website, which reports on current affairs but also investigates Ukraine’s top authorities and high-profile corruption schemes.
Sych said that the priority now is to attract a new, younger audience to the station.
“The age of the Radio Era audience is 50-something, and we want to make it much younger, 30-something,” Sych said.
Novoye Vremya was launched in spring 2014, in response to Russia’s propaganda assault on Ukraine.
The core of the team, including Sych, are journalists who used to work together in Korrespondent, once the most successful weekly magazine in Ukraine. They fled the magazine after a close associate of then-President Viktor Yanukovych, Serhiy Kurchenko, bought it in 2013, understanding that the freedom of speech is over for the outlet.
A year later, the team and the intruder switched places. Kurchenko and Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of the EuroMaidan Revolution in February 2014. Next month, the journalists they once displaced started their new outlet.
Dragon Capital is the sole owner and investor in Novoe Vremya.
“Dragon Capital finances us, but they do not interfere in what we do,” Sych says. “We see them once in a few months to discuss business questions, and that is all.”
Due to the costly production and a struggling media advertising market, Novoe Vremya hasn’t broken even since its launch. The radio station can bring it closer to being in the black.
“The project has to become self-sufficient,” Sych explains. “The more profit we make — the less dependent we are on the investor.”
While very much being a moneymaking venture, Radio NV also seeks to uphold good standards of journalism. Valery Kalnush, the former editor of news magazine Korrespondent and Radio Vesti, who is now Radio NV’s chief editor, developed the station’s program schedule from scratch over a period of six months. Kalnush joked that he now knows how to build a radio station with his bare hands. His guiding principle, he said, is that facts are to prevail over opinions and personal feelings.
“If you think about it, you realize that people don’t usually get to hear facts,” Kalnush said. “Someone comes to a conclusion for them, and transmits that conclusion through the media, so people are left with only two options: to agree or not to agree with the conclusions.”
In contrast, Radio NV aspires to provide double-checked facts.
“Trust me, this is a lot more difficult,” Kalnush says. “At the same time, it’s the only way to do this properly. We want people to think, to come to their own conclusions, even if not everyone likes that.”
Since its launch, Radio NV has from time to time received calls from former Radio Era listeners, demanding that the station return to its old format. Most of the callers are senior citizens, retirees, Kalnush said. He has little sympathy for them.
“They don’t want to see reality,” Kalnush said. “They live in their own universe, where the Soviet Union is the best country and everything is very cheap, and they don’t support Ukraine as it is now.”
Kalnush doesn’t blame these people for having an opinion, but he won’t be meeting their demands either.
Radio NV currently produces over 15 hours of original content every 24 hours, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, music, movies, books, and history. It even has a show on economics hosted by Ukraine’s former Minister of Economic Development and Trade Pavlo Sheremeta.
There is also a news broadcast every 20 minutes.
“We give the most up-to-date information on what is going on in Ukraine and around the world,” Sych said. “We report on the situation in Syria and in Ukraine’s war zone.”
The station has also attracted some famous guests: During its first month on the air, the station interviewed Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, Health Minister Ulana Suprun, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
“When we invite people to come on the radio, they all usually agree to come,” Sych said. “They come despite the fact that some of them aren't pleased with what we write about them in Novoe Vremya magazine.”
Sych said Novoe Vremya magazine should not be compared to Radio NV: While they share the same themes, brands and ownership, the two media are different.
“The difference is colossal,” he said. “To begin with, there’s the schedule. Novoe Vremya is a weekly magazine and it has its own speed. Radio NV is a 24-four-hour radio station — some people come in to work at 5 a.m. and leave after 10 p.m.”
And Kalnush said that even 24 hours a day is not enough time to fit all the content he wants to air.
“I try to rebroadcast the original shows at least a few times, so more people can hear them. But the competition between journalists is tough, as there’s usually too much content for a 24-hour day,” Kalnush said. “Some original programs with low ratings won’t make it to the next season.”
Radio NV is set to receive its first ratings statistics from TNS global research company in late June-July.
“Based on the results of the research, we’ll decide in which direction to move further,” Kalnush said.
“Thankfully, we’ve got a lot of plans and ideas. But our main goal is to make good-quality radio for people who are curious about the world and who always want to know more.”
Radio NV’s frequency is 96.0 FM. It can also be listened on the Novoe Vremya website, www.nv.ua.
Novoe Vremya media holding chief editor Vitalii Sych (L) and Radio NV news and talk radio station chief editor Valery Kalnush (C) show their newsroom in Kyiv on April 16. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)