Last year, the DOZORRO project of TI Ukraine calculated that in 2022, almost UAH 400 million had been spent on the production of the United News and FreeDom telethons, as well as programs for the Dim TV channel. In 2023, almost UAH 2 billion was allocated in the budget for the production of television content.

At the same time, according to the Open Budget, the plan was not fully implemented and UAH 1.5 billion was used.

The following TV channels received orders: Inter, ICTV, 1+1, as well as Kinokit LLC, which Nashi Groshi program associated with Kyrylo Tymoshenko, and We-Ukraine LLC, whose team, according to Detector Media, worked on Rinat Akhmetov’s TV channels.

Find out in our new article how much was paid, who received the funds and for which services. Here, we have collected data from the Unified Web Portal on the Spending of Public Funds on the costs of creating and broadcasting telethons, as well as projects commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the parliamentary TV channel Rada from January 1 to December 31, 2023. The total amount for the year is slightly more than UAH 930 million.

Media marathons for Ukrainian and Russian-speaking audiences

Judging by the payments, UAH 842.2 million was spent on two media marathons:

  • United News (with the tag #UArazom) — a round-the-clock project mainly with information and analytical programs, which united national TV channels;
  • FreeDom is a daily television information project that is broadcast in Russian on the Ukrainian foreign broadcasting channel UA of the State Enterprise IBMPU (International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine) and provides an opportunity to learn the truth about the Ukrainian-Russian war to Russian-speaking viewers from all over the world.

More than 70% of all expenses were spent on the first project—UAH 618.5 million; UAH 223.7 million was spent on the second one.

The production of media marathons was purchased by two procuring entities:

  • SE International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine, which is under the control of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy;
  • SE Parliamentary TV channel Rada.

The largest amount of money—UAH 207 million—was paid to SLM News LLC from the Starlight Media structure, which is part of the Istvan group of Viktor Pinchuk. The company ran both marathons.

Slightly less—UAH 206.7 million—was paid to two organizations related to each other: Foreign Enterprise 1+1 Production and LLC TRK Studio 1+1. The first was engaged in the production of FreeDom, the second covered United News. Both companies, according to YouControl, are related to the financial groups of the Surkis brothers and Viktor Medvedchuk, and among the founders are the Cypriot company Caddoa Limited, Yaroslav Pakholchuk, Director General of the 1+1 media group, as well as Maksym Kryvytskyi—General Producer of the 1+1 channel.

In addition, the list of joint beneficiaries also includes employees of the TV channel: TSN journalists Stanislav Yasynskyi and Oleksandr Motornyi, Director of the Department of Journalistic Investigations of the 1+1 channel Maksym Shylenko, TV hosts Lidia Taran, Alla Mazur, Yurii Horbunov, and Ruslan Senichkin, TV host of the 2+2 channel Maksym Sukhenko, producers Olha Slisarenko, Yuliia Zhmakina, and Ivanna Naida, Director of the News Department of 1+1 media Serhii Popov, editors Ella Bilostotska and Robert Opalenyk, TSN special correspondents Olha Koshelenko and Oleksandr Zahorodnyi, head of special projects of the 1+1 channel Olha Kashpor.

Similarly, for the organization of both marathons UAH 183.7 million was paid to PJSC Telekanal Inter belonging to oligarch Dmytro Firtash. We-Ukraine LLC, which was created by former employees of Rinat Akhmetov’s media holding, received UAH 164.5 million for organizing the United News marathon. Another UAH 80.4 million was allocated to Kinokit LLC—for the marathon United News ordered by the Rada TV channel. The Nashi Groshi program associated it with Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

TV shows for Ukrainians and foreigners

In addition, UAH 88.5 million was spent on the production of at least 20 television programs commissioned by the SE International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine. UAH 43.6 million of this amount was spent on programs for The Gaze platform, another UAH 41 million—for the Dom and FreeDom TV channels. The rest of the funds were paid for related services to projects without separate directions (such as posters, lighting, rent), as well as projects whose distribution platforms we could not find.

The Gaze

Program Recipient Amount, UAH
Military Equipment LLC Liberty Production 3,510,000.00
Historical Retrospective LLC Marker Media 5,151,120.00
European Edge Individual entrepreneur Krul Maksym Yuriiovych 4,390,000.00
Cooking Show LLC Marker Media 8,456,400.00
Hidden Angle LLC Marker Media 4,519,200.00
Conversation Studio LLC Marker Media 14,421,120.00
The Power of the Mind  Foreign Enterprise 1+1 Production 1,591,140.60
Stop Fake LLC Liberty Production 1,530,000.00

The largest amount—UAH 32.5 million—was paid by the multimedia platform to Marker Media LLC. Until September 2016, the company was called Sreda Production Company LLC and was owned by a Russian producer of Belarusian origin Ruslan Sorokin and a Russian Alexander Tsekalo, who together filmed the Big Difference program.

By the way, as of the date of registration of the company in February 2011, its head was producer Oksana Ivaniuk. We mentioned her in the text about the cost of shooting TV shows as the owner of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi LLC, Polygon Film LLC, and IQ LLC. She produced such films as Cossacks.Absolutely False History; Ivan and Marta about the Sixtiers; and The Big Little War.

A year later, in February 2012, Andrii Tanabash, a producer and actor of films and TV shows produced in Ukraine, but mainly in the Russian language, became the head of Sreda (now Marker Media). In late 2016, Denys Sezin became the sole owner and head of the company. A person with the same name signs on the pages of the Kyiv studio New Time-Production rental, which rents equipment for film production, shoots videos, and organizes online broadcasts.

From October 2023, Tanabash joined the co-owners. One of the few shows in Ukrainian from among his works as part of Marker Media is Prepody, which was released in 2021 on NLO TV and is still available on YouTube. On LinkedIn, Andrii Tanabash points to his experience on the 1+1 channel as a financial manager, and in the newspaper Blyk (closed in 2011) as deputy general director for finance.

Why exactly was UAH 32.5 million transferred to these people? The funds were allocated to the production of four projects: Historical Retrospective, Cooking Show, Hidden Angle, and Conversation Studio.

Programs with the original names could not be found, and there are no nuances about the names in the shooting contracts. At the same time, The Gaze YouTube channel has programs that match the description and names, but in English: the historical program History, culinary Chefs Next Door, entertainment Hidden Angle, analytical Talk For More and Talk For More.Live.

The channel has almost 23,000 subscribers and more than 2,000 videos were uploaded to it. In total, these videos were watched 3.7 million times. That’s an average of 1,620 views per video. At the same time, the above shows have no more than 47 views on average per video. But some get several thousand views each.

The new English-language media created to inform foreigners about the events in Ukraine was mentioned in the investigation by As journalists found out, tens of millions of hryvnias are spent on The Gaze platform from the budget, although almost no one watches or reads it. Its format and direction are not unique, and the country currently has more popular platforms where it would be possible to invest budget funds. These are UATV English YouTube channels for 413,000 subscribers or United24 under the Ministry of Digital Transformation for more than 930,000 viewers, not to mention the non-state The Kyiv Independent or the English-language version of Ukrinform, which is funded by the state (the owner of the legal entity is the Ministry of Culture).

As for the website views, as of the release date of the investigation, The Gaze had a little about 65,000 visits in four months (from June to September 2023). Simultaneously, the English-language version of Ukrinform had about 8.8 million visits during the same period, and The Kyiv Independent had more than 18 million visits during this time.

Dom & FreeDom

Program Recipient Amount, UAH
Checkpoint Show Individual entrepreneur Balan Taras Dmytrovych 250,567.00
Individual Entrepreneur Zaiko Andrii Yuriiovych 137,900.00
Individual entrepreneur Mykhailov Yevhenii Volodymyrovych 601,990.00
Individual entrepreneur Onishchenko Dmytro Vadymovych 476,333.60
Dilo Bude Individual entrepreneur Lykhovyda Serhii Ivanovych 67,200.00
I’ll Wait Municipal institution Kyiv Small Opera 20,000.00
Individual entrepreneur Balan Taras Dmytrovych 37,246.20
Individual entrepreneur Nazarov Oleksii Anatoliiovych 46,655.00
Individual entrepreneur Onishchenko Dmytro Vadymovych 255,253.47
Liberation of Kherson. A Year Later Individual entrepreneur Bakum Volodymyr Viktorovych 48,760.00
Muzoborona Tik-Tak LLC 193,179.00
Individual entrepreneur Balan Taras Dmytrovych 52,400.00
Individual entrepreneur Mykhailov Yevhenii Volodymyrovych 604,672.00
Morning at Home LLC Overkat Studio 11,214,000.00
Individual entrepreneur Horshkova Svitlana Valeriivna 759,750.00
Quiet Evening Sun Films LLC 25,752,00.000
I Won’t Forget Individual entrepreneur Lehen Pavlo Andriiovych 173,159.78

Another UAH 25.8 million was transferred to Sun Films LLC for the show Quiet Evening, hosted by Olena Kravets, the actress of Kvartal 95. In total, 35 episodes were released during the year, plus two special ones — the New Year episode and a digest with the best scenes. In addition to the full videos, 60 more videos were cut from the episodes of the shown and uploaded to YouTube.

The most popular was the first New Year’s episode, which was released on January 1, 2023, and was the fifth one. It has 271,500 views on YouTube. After the public attention to the amount of expenses, Olena Kravets said that the show would not continue, and it would not be filmed in 2024.

Sun Films LLC was registered in Kyiv in 2021. Its head and owner Serhii Storozhev is a director of television projects, clips, and movies. His works include:

  • the show When We Are Home (2014), the first four seasons of which were released in Russian, the last, fifth one—in Ukrainian;
  • a short film in Russian For Rent (2015);
  • a Russian-language show The Worst Friend (2020);
  • a Russian-language show The Game of Destiny (2020);
  • a Russian-language film My Sweet Home (2020);
  • a Ukrainian-language film Dedication to Eve (2023), which was produced by UP Hub;
  • a documentary film about the special operation of military intelligence in Mariupol Steel Birds (2023).

UAH 12 million was transferred by SE International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine to Overkat Studio LLC and IE Svitlana Horoshkova (casting director, former employee of Star Media) for the daily show Morning at Home with hosts Lilia Rebryk, Iryna Khomenko, and Kostiantyn Oktiabrskyi. But in fact, it was filmed by the aforementioned Serhii Storozhev. This is indicated in the justification of one of the procurement transaction for the production of the program.

The project was launched in early 2021. It has a separate YouTube channel with 17,500 subscribers and more than 9 million views.

These are only the three largest amounts of payments among the 23 contractors. The funds were also allocated to YouTube shows, which were shown on television. For example, the interviewer Serhii Lykhovyda received UAH 67,000 for the Dilo Bude project—about Ukrainians who develop their business during the war.

Another UAH 1.5 million was paid to four individual entrepreneurs: Taras Balan, Andrii Zaiko, Yevhenii Mykhailov, and Dmytro Onishchenko for the production of the entertaining Checkpoint Show. It was hosted by Volodymyr Shumko, who hosts a show of the same format on YouTube—a game competition between celebrities who have to answer questions.

Projects for which no information could be found

Program Recipient Amount, UAH
Who I Want to Become Individual entrepreneur Demska Farida Ihorivna 96,800.00
Individual entrepreneur Lehen Pavlo Andriiovych 21,100.00
New Year’s Promo Individual entrepreneur Lehen Pavlo Andriiovych 39,000.00
Poetical Ukraine Individual entrepreneur Kulish Rostyslav Romanovych 44,280.00
Individual entrepreneur Lehen Pavlo Andriiovych 77,700.00
Late Night Show Individual entrepreneur Kysilevych Dmytro Petrovych 2,610,000.00
related services for different shows Individual entrepreneur Mykhailov Yevhenii Volodymyrovych 352,000.00
Individual entrepreneur Ishchenko Svitlana Anatoliivna 86,700.00
Individual entrepreneur Kyrychenko Viacheslav Mykolayovych 507,400.00
Individual entrepreneur Nemchenko Antonina Viktorivna 113,605.50
Individual entrepreneur Nemchenko Antonina Viktorivna 57,717.00
Individual entrepreneur Mykhailov Yevhenii Volodymyrovych 213,000.00

Will costs be reduced in the future?

So, let us look back: last year, the state paid more than UAH 840 million for telethons, the task of which was to promptly notify the public about events in Ukraine in the 24/7 format. Most of the funds were received by companies suspected of having links with people close to the president, and large TV channels that have or had ties with oligarchs: for example, 1+1 channel, some employees of which in autumn 2023 asked the court to bail Ihor Kolomoisky.

Almost UAH 90 million was spent on the production of programs for the TV channels Dom and FreeDom. Among them is the famous The Gaze, expediency and financing of which may cause doubts. The show’s viewing statistics do not reach the level of similar platforms.

UAH 1.5 billion was allocated in the 2024 budget for the production and broadcasting of television and radio programs for state needs, the collection, processing and distribution of official information products, and financial support for the state foreign broadcasting system. This is the amount that the Ministry of Culture was able to use in 2023.

Since the end of last year, society has been discussing the further expediency of the Unified Marathon and budget expenditures for it, or at least the need to change its format. In September, Mykhailo Podoliak, advisor to the Head of the Presidential Office, announced changes in the telethon after the appointment of a new Minister of Information Policy.

There were no changes, at least significant ones. Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, the new head of the Committee on Freedom of Speech, appointed in December, said that the telethon should be reformatted; otherwise, it would not survive the next year. He voiced this opinion in an interview with Ukrinform. In early 2024, Rostyslav Karandeyev, acting Minister of Culture and Information Policy, noted that TV channels were considering changes in the format of the United News marathon.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy thinks that United News Telethon helped Ukraine believe that it was able to win the war. He stated this in an interview with Natalia Moseichuk, a journalist of the 1+1 channel.