Ukraine’s parliament has passed a bill establishing a quota for Ukrainian-language programming on television and radio.
The bill, passed yesterday, was supported by 269 lawmakers in its final vote, only needing to be signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko before it becomes law.
If Mr Poroshenko signs the law, national level TV and radio stations will be obliged to broadcast at least 75% of programmes and films in the Ukrainian language. This quota would apply across two separate time frames — from 7am—6pm and from 6pm—10pm — so as to ensure a fairly even spread across the day.
According to the draft version of the law, programmes produced externally and not aired in the state language — for example, foreign sitcoms — should have Ukrainian subtitles.
The bill has caused significant controversy among native Russian speakers in Ukraine, with Ukraine’s Inter Media Group claiming that “this bill violates the rights of millions of Ukrainians, for whom Russian is the mother tongue”, in addition to speakers of other minority languages.
If the bill has not been drastically changed from its draft version, however, it does not constitute a blanket ban on speaking Russian on Ukrainian TV: as long as a programme’s main presenters speak in Ukrainian, using other languages during the broadcast is permissible, for example comments by guests to a talk show. According to the bill, the Crimean Tatar language would also count towards any Ukrainian language quota.
Ukrainian is Ukraine’s sole official language, although the majority of the population can speak Russian, with around a third of the population considering Russian their mother tongue.