Ra­dio NV takes to air­waves with aim of im­prov­ing pub­lic di­a­logue

Kyiv Post - - National - BY MARIYA KAPINOS [email protected]

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.”

Eth­i­cal po­si­tion

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.”

Up-to-date

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)

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