11 February 2014
Its name means ‘public’. It was launched in the midst of the protests in Ukraine as a 'socially responsible' web TV, with the goal of showing what was actually going on in the streets of Kiev. GEN had a conversation with Nataliya Gumenyuk, co-founder of Hromadske.TV, during which she described what it is like to build a TV station from the ground up.
She appears quite young but full of strength. Nataliya Gumenyuk is one of the faces of Hromadske.TV, a web TV launched on 22 November 2013. She left the mainstream Ukrainian media after 11 years as a professional journalist to start her own station with a faction of like-minded journalists, and make it the first public broadcasting service in Ukraine. At the time they were completely unaware that they will become a new voice in the media landscape, as dissent grew.
Hromadske.TV went live late last November and quickly became a 24/7 livefeed of the political unrest on Ustream, reaching up to 130,000 viewers simultaneously and 20 million of unique clicks on YouTube. Using cell phones as well as professional equipment, they alternate between studio broadcasts and on-the-street reporting. Gumenyuk thinks that the reason why people watch is because they 'show life as it is'. The team was doing everything at the same time: 'You could be an editor in the morning and a presenter at night'.
The Ukrainian public started following and trusting them. Gumenyuk explains, 'It worked because we used what people use in citizen journalism’, making it rather cheap but somewhat bigger than a blog. They also use social media to its full potential: over 72,000 followers on Twitter, same on Facebook and more than 160,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel.
The people’s support can also be measured through their finances: 75 percent of Hromadske.TV's money comes from crowdfunding campaigns (here is the ongoing one) and the rest is international donations. Nataliya Gumenyuk views this engagement as a strong responsibility to uphold her audience’s trust.
'Honesty' is one of the words that Gumenyuk uses often. The team decided together to try to stay neutral, avoiding any personal politics or emotional reactions from the journalists. When asked about safety, Gumenyuk told us that the journalists were mostly able to do their job without hostility from the authorities, although there has been a few incidents.
Now that people know and appreciate Hromadske.TV, the viewers want more programmes, and higher quality content. 'Quality is an issue for every media', comments Gumenyuk. More content is a challenge for Hromadske.TV, as it still is a young newsroom, with a very basic structure. However, she is confident they will be sustainable in the near future, with a five-year plan firmly in place.
And as for afterwards, journalists often ask what will happen to Hromadske.TV after the protests are over. Gumenyuk assures, 'The media always have something to do.'