The United TV Marathon: Inter Media Group
Anastasia Daugule

Anastasia Daugule, host of Morning with Inter, shares:

“On the day of the attack we had a regular morning broadcast of Morning with Inter program. This is a light morning show in which we help the country to wake up and start a new day with a smile. The first reaction to the bombings was shock. Despite the acute international tension the day before, the outbreak of the war came as a shock. Many colleagues, experienced journalists, in the first hours simply could not believe, could not realize that the Russian Federation had begun hostilities. As it turned out, it is impossible to be ready for a war.

From the point of view of the television process, it became obvious that entertainment shows, films and programs about travel were out of place. Only news. Only actual, reliable information. The social networks got instantly flooded with thousands of conflicting messages, reports from the front line, alarmist calls - it is easy for an ordinary person to “drown” in this “sea” of information.

The task of professional journalism is to provide objective, timely and - what is very important - verified information in compliance with the standards of fact-checking. This is what most of the major television channels began to do.

However, it quickly became clear that even the big channels cannot keep such an information front around the clock on their own.

First, a lot of TV channel employees urgently began to leave for the safe western part of the country, as well as move abroad to Poland, Slovakia, Romania. Naturally, people thought first of all about how to survive. They thought not about work, but about the safety of their families, they took the children out by any means.

Second, a significant part of those few television employees who did not evacuate from the big cities could not go to work. They were forced to hide in bomb shelters due to the shelling and alarms. People spent nights in basements and at metro stations. During the day a curfew was introduced and no one moved around the city.

Third, those few television employees who did not leave and who nevertheless risked leaving the bomb shelter were not always enough to provide the complex television process with resources and technical support. During the first days, small groups of those who wanted and were able to get to the editorial offices and studios, worked without sleep and rest. But people physically need at least a few hours of sleep. Journalism requires a sharp mind, attention, accuracy - people just needed to sleep and eat, move away from monitors and working places.

On the second or third day, a systemic organization of a common unified broadcast was launched, to which the leading television channels of Ukraine were connected. Within a few days, the TV broadcast schedule was built, with each media group taking on two-three-four-five hours of broadcasting (as much as it could provide), after which it transmitted the word and signal to another media group.

Thus, for the first time in the history of Ukrainian television, the competing TV channels united in an unprecedented way. The war made TV channels forget about the eternal competition. All of us, who previously argued for rating points and competed in culinary and dance shows, have now become one united information front.

Our reporters are incredible heroes. Each reportage shooting in war conditions is an act of bravery. The TV hosts do an important job not only by providing information, but also by maintaining our viewers’ confidence in their abilities, the spirit of victory.

I realized that in the most incredible conditions it is important to maintain a daily routine - sleep, wash, eat at least once a day, do basic exercises. Before the war I swam a lot - I swam in the pool for several kilometers, this is my favorite sport and a kind of dynamic meditation. I really miss this. So I began to imitate swimming, just without water, in the form of freestyle and butterfly movements. This can be done even in a bomb shelter - find a wider corridor, wave your hands to the beat, close your eyes and imagine the sea coast.

It is incredibly important to keep in touch with loved ones. One SMS with three simple words: “How are you?” gives a charge of vivacity and tenderness for the whole day. After the war I dream of hugging the dearest people, drinking good coffee (you can’t find it now) and swimming across the Bosphorus without hearing explosions and sirens.”


Anatoly Bondarenko

Broadcasting news “under the protection of two tanks”

Interview with Anatoly Bondarenko, host of Inter TV channel

What was your reaction to the first attacks on Kyiv?
Shock. And I think that I was not alone in this assessment of what was happening. Waking up at 5.00 am at first I did not even realize that these were explosions. I turned on the TV and saw Putin’s statement about the special operation. I began to monitor the news and realized that the war had begun.

The first confusion passed quickly. A few hours after the first shelling, a letter arrived that journalists and editors were needed to work in the information field. I immediately responded to the call, specifying that I could also broadcast live. A couple of hours later, I was already invited to come to the studio of the National Information Systems company (NIS, part of Inter Media Group), where a large group of news people work - editors, directors, sound engineers, journalists. To get from the left bank of Kyiv, where I live, I had to walk to the right bank - the bridges were blocked. A car was already waiting on the other side of the bridge, we quickly drove to the studio. And there, together with Anastasia Daugule, we distributed the broadcast time among ourselves.

How did you interact with the other channels? How did you agree so quickly on the joint broadcast?
This was a decision of the Coordinating Center. Since February 26, the channels of all media groups in Ukraine agreed to broadcast in the format of “United News”. In order for the flow of information to be uninterrupted, media groups broadcast in turn.

On the first day of Inter broadcasting, we went on the air from 18.00 to midnight, 15-minute news blocks were on the air every hour. The film crew stayed overnight at NIS, as the producer told us “under the protection of two tanks.” And the next day, it was decided to come out with news from the NTN studio. We were joined by a director’s group from the NTN channel, but the team still turned out to be not numerous, many of them had left. Since we worked in extreme conditions, they sent me information in Telegram, and I read and commented on the news on the air directly from my phone. It was a little unusual, because news came in Russian and I had to translate them directly into Ukrainian. This went on for a couple of hours, after which we were informed that we have transferred broadcasting to 1+1.

Now, Inter’s broadcasting is supervised by the Podrobnosti team, they have a large staff and extensive experience in news work. And I collect exclusive information for broadcasts. For example, I found an interview with the Israeli special forces, which was made by their public broadcaster Kan. They also sent me an interview with a Croat who fought in the “DPR/LPR” in 2014 and has now returned to Ukraine to defend democracy. All this was on the air of the TV marathon.

Do you broadcast from your own studios?
Each TV channel works from its own studio. This process is managed by a single Coordination Center, where the signal is switched from one studio to another, from another to a third, and so on.

The marathon is in no way similar to the propaganda aired in Russia. Your broadcasts try to take care of people. The hosts not only inform about what is happening, but also reassure, sometimes crack jokes. Can you share more on the format you have?
The broadcast format is as follows: a 10-15 minute news block is released every hour, depending on the amount of current information. Then the TV marathon begins, other hosts appear and pass the word to each other. Representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Security and Defense Council, the Office of the President and other structures on which the course of events depends, as well as special journalists of TV channels from different regions of Ukraine and other countries are connected to the general broadcast. The information palette is very extensive, and as a result, it turns out that TV channels objectively and promptly provide comprehensive information to the viewer from different regions of the country 24 to 7 - they cover events, share useful information, talk about the military situation and the humanitarian situation.

On a personal level, how are you doing? How do you keep in touch with loved ones and family? What is the hardest thing during the war?
Many of my relatives and friends have left, the rest are going through hard times. People are sitting in basements and because of the constant shelling they cannot even go out. Communication with my sister is a rarity; from the very beginning, she and her husband have been sitting in the basement in Bucha. There is no connection with them. I can only get an answer to my text message the next day, when sometimes she comes to the surface “to take a breath of air”. I’m very worried - they are surrounded. Products are running out...

Since the first day of the war in Kyiv, I myself have not gone anywhere, I have been working, one might say, on the general information front. I am making some news and exclusives for the online broadcast that may be of interest to viewers. I fight against fakes - I send truthful information about the war in Ukraine to my friends and relatives living in Russia.

The most difficult thing now is the feeling of excruciating pain from what is happening. These barbaric bombardments are destroying my country. Ukrainians have been sitting in basements without food, water and light for many days in a row. Children are dying. Civilians are promised humanitarian corridors - and they immediately fire at them. It’s inhuman! My soul hurts from everything that happens!

There is not even a bomb shelter in our area - ordinary basements with one exit. When the air raid signal sounds, we just turn off the lights and stay at home. In the early days, it was scary when I heard all these explosions. Terrible pictures were spinning in my head of what was happening with people who had come under fire: how houses were collapsing and burning, how children were crying, how confused wounded people were rushing around... everything simply shrunk inside... from every explosion... now we are used to it. Many of our shops are closed, in some places food is delivered occasionally. The last time we went out in the hope of replenishing our food supply, we managed to buy two small bottles of kefir and children’s cheese. Another time there was a huge queue for bread. Incredible sensations - the bread was still warm! But we somehow live, we don’t think about hunger and we don’t feel like eating. I just want this nightmare to be ended. And we will do everything for this! Everything will be UKRAINE!


Oleksiy Likhman

If I don’t go on the air then someone has already defeated me personally

Interview with Oleksiy Likhman, host of the news program Details of the Week

Oleksiy, what was your reaction after the first attacks? And how did your emotions transform over the next weeks of hostilities in Ukraine?
At first I felt panic and helplessness. It was completely new to me, a very unpleasant sticky feeling. I am a leader in life, all my friends and relatives know where to look for hope and support. And then, perhaps for the first time in my life I felt that I didn’t know what to do next. And I realized what real panic was. Acceptance of the fact that there is a war going on in our country has not come yet. This is impossible to accept. But the human psyche has its own defense mechanisms. They turned on and helped to pull myself together in a couple of days, learn to coexist with this horror. To say that now I feel quite myself and control the situation would be stupid, because we all live for the moment. And our main task is to run through this day. And to help the country, whoever can.

At what point did you join the unified information broadcast of Ukrainian TV channels? Who and how is now broadcasting from Inter?
Immediately after the first explosion, Inter began broadcasting in an emergency mode: news with the latest information was released every hour from noon. In the evening I led a 5-hour TV marathon. And the next day after the outbreak of hostilities, the idea of joining forces for a common television broadcast arose. All Ukrainian TV channels that joined the unified information broadcast began to go on the air and pick up the baton from each other. The schedules changed depending on how many media groups joined the air, the last one was the public broadcaster Suspilne. At first, each channel broadcast for 6 hours a day, now the time has been reduced to 5 hours, then during the day, then at night. Inter is represented by four hosts: Anastasia Daugule, Alexey Fadeev, Alexander Prosyanik and myself.

How many people are involved in this process?
Unfortunately, not as many as we would like. But all this can be explained by the human factor. Someone needed to save the children and take sick parents out of the war zone. Someone remained blocked in different regions of Ukraine and cannot get to Kyiv, but helps remotely. This is force majeure due to war. Those journalists who remained in the capital are working hard to quickly broadcast the news. Our information service is assisted by an extensive network of bureaus in all regions of Ukraine. We also have a good international network - bureaus in Europe, Israel, America. They communicate with Western politicians - this is also covered on our air.

Do journalists and reporters work under the protection of Ukrainian troops?
No, the army now has something to do on the front lines. Reporters work at their own risk. Of course, the editors of information programs try not to set tasks associated with the risk to life. But cases when our film crews came under fire, escaped from rocket attacks, hid in basements, and evacuated are far from uncommon. Fortunately, everything went without tragic consequences.

No one can force anyone to work at the forefront now. And no one does it, we have no moral right to do so. But if the reporter himself volunteers to go on a mission, then honor and praise be to him. Everyone is working to the limit of their cabilities, with the understanding that this is necessary for the country, no matter how pathetic it may sound.

What shocked you the most since the beginning of the war?
Shelled houses, the first wounded. It instantly plunges you into a stupor, you experience horror and shock. Your world is destroyed, it will not be as it was before. You don’t know if you’ll survive, and if so, what life will be like afterwards. In the best case, you will need to start all over from the beginning.

I have these feelings also superimposed thru a personal story. In my country house, located near the Hostomel airport, my two brothers remained in the zone of active hostilities. They have been saving themselves in the basements. Communication with them is constantly interrupted - once I did not hear them for six days. They are still there, it is now impossible to organize an evacuation from Hostomel, since the village is occupied by Russian troops. You can imagine my feelings.

Do you consider the deeds of the Russian army a genocide?
Undoubtedly. I can’t even call the Kremlin’s nonsense about a special operation an official position. I consider it below my own dignity to comment on everything they say in their statements. Fortunately, the whole world understands that this is a genocide. This is a crime against humanity. And Putin’s place is in The Hague. While everyone is dreaming that he is dead, I want him to be arrested, to live his life behind bars feeling the hatred of the whole world. Death is too easy a retribution for what he does.

What is your attitude to the decision of the West not to close the sky over Ukraine?
As a citizen of Ukraine, a person whose country was attacked and your compatriots are being killed, it is extremely negative. It is a disappointment that many Western institutions designed to keep people safe fail in their primary purpose. This means that it is time to restart all these platforms again.

One can only guess what drives Western politicians who still continue to be afraid of Russia. It is strange for us in Ukraine to look at such a reaction, because the vaunted Russian army turned out to be in fact an outdated army of the 80s. Ukrainian troops tear it to pieces now.

In my opinion, the reaction of the West is not tough enough in terms of military relations. What is Putin ready for? We are dealing with a mentally ill person. If you are afraid of him, it will untie his hands more and more. Who will be next if he refuses to comply with his demands? In fact, now the West allows Putin to pursue his policy of appropriating territories. It seems to me that now is the time to give a powerful rebuff to the aggressor, not only with the help of sanctions, but also by destroying most of his army. Of course, I am not a military expert or an expert on international politics. But for many Ukrainians the actions of NATO and most Western partners are now seen as cowardice.

What is your approach to the viewers in these tough days?
One of the most important tasks is to calm the audience a little. Maintain the belief that we will definitely win. I try to be sincere and honest. Tell people that everything will be fine, the truth is behind us. The audience feels it, my messengers are full of messages like “thank you, we believe you”, “thank you, you have become brothers and sisters for us”.

By the way, it is not so difficult to share confidence in our victory - we see the successes of the Ukrainian army.

How do you deal with the stress?
I’m not dealing well. The situation with my family, the situation in the country contributes to the fact that I am constantly under stress. I’m trying to pull myself together, but ... I can’t watch movies or read books. I live 24/7 in news mode. What saves me is taking care of my inner circle: my aunt lives next to me and I have to provide her with food and medicine. My dog rescues me. It has become very sensitive lately - she catches my moods and periods of special sadness and kisses and hugs me more. When you call your relatives every day, you get the feeling that you have at least a little control over the situation and your life, the life of your loved ones. It’s the only thing that saves now. Well, and work, during which you think less about yourself in this war, you get a little distracted.

Perhaps you have stories from viewers that you would like to share...
I was literally brought to tears by invitations from strangers/viewers from Western Ukraine to come to them. Dozens of messages: “Come to us with everyone who needs to be saved. We are ready to welcome you”. This is very eloquent about what a wonderful country we live in. This is worth cherishing!

Many people really left Kyiv, and you have stayed. What keeps you there?
The call of duty. It seems to me that if I leave, I will betray the very idea of fighting for the country. If I don’t go on the air, then someone has already defeated me personally. After all, if we all leave, there will be no TV marathon, but it is also important. Now I do what I can do well. And this is exactly what is needed at this moment.

What would you like to tell to the people around the world who are following the events in Ukraine?
I’ll ask them not just to watch. Many believe that nothing will change if, for example, the inhabitants of Paris come out to a multi-thousand anti-war rally. Actually, it is very important. As long as your leaders hesitate, as long as they are afraid of the myth of a great and mighty Russia, they still look back at your opinion. And when they see that their voters demand a tougher position from the government, tougher actions, more support, they will start paying attention to the opinion of their people. Every person who comes out demanding decisive action is important. This is what the people of Europe and the whole world can do for Ukraine now. It is very valuable to us!
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