Learning through our screens

To become better acquainted with Belarus, it takes more than a single drive through by car. Of course, it’s easier to watch television than to go exploring.  If you want to learn more about our country, it’s hard to know which is the best channel to choose… there are so many. To discover the traditions of Belarus, be they sporting or cultural, Lad Channel may be solution. Rather than discussing politics or passing news stories, it concentrates on the true spirit of the country. Its Chief Director, Sergey Kukhto, tells us more

By Victor Andreev

What’s the difference between Belarusian and foreign TV channels?

In my view, our great advantage is that we have not chased all the latest modern trends and have avoided copying foreign formats.

What’s better: to purchase a well-promoted show from abroad or to make your own?

Sadly, our media market has very few programmes which completely pay for themselves. From an economic point of view, it’s more profitable to buy a licensed product, broadcast it and earn even more. However, there’s no doubt that the TV industry must develop and there’s no hope of this unless we shoot our own programmes. Domestically-made programmes occupy the lion’s share of broadcasting, as we’ve unanimously decided to invest huge sums only in our own serious programmes. These will be classics which can be broadcast every six to twelve months: they’ll be landmarks. We’re injecting money into documentaries, as well as educational programmes and those for children. Our TV channel broadcasts news from the country’s regions, so our viewers can see events taking place in Belarus’ more remote areas.
You say documentaries are being developed. Not long ago, these were rarely aired. What has inspired this change?
Many channels are currently broadcasting investigative films, and documentaries exploring historical events. Previously secret sources, facts and data have become available, which arouses interest. Films about our past are particularly popular just now but I think history will always be of interest, since we learn from it. The better we study historical events, and in more detail, the fewer mistakes we’ll make in life.

Do you believe that documentaries may eventually prove more popular than soap operas?

I’d love this to happen but I don’t want to offend soap opera lovers. I advocate a more diverse range of programming, so people have more choice.

Do you think Belarus needs its own sports channel, as discussed in recent years?

Of course, just as it needs its own educational channel and children’s channel. However, we must assess this objectively, since it’s expensive. If we had as much oil and as much money as Saudi Arabia, our only problem would be how to spend it! Nevertheless, I’m sure that we’ll have our own sports channel sooner or later. We have many fans and a grand event is coming up for Minsk: the World Ice Hockey Championship, scheduled for 2014.

What lies ahead for our TV programming?

The quality of each TV programme depends on the financial resources available. If Russian channels earn more, they can spend more; it’s a simple law of economics. At the moment, our advertising market is growing, but not as quickly as we might wish. However, progression is evident, compared with three to five years ago, with the quality of programming improving. Actually, people are spending more time than ever at home with their families, watching TV, rather than going out to restaurants and so on, so the time is ripe for broadcasting to provide a better service. We are ready to offer new, original and interesting programmes.

What is needed to become a Belarusian television host?

Having your own original idea is the best way; our programmes tend to be hosted, headed or serviced by those who created them. We’re always searching for fresh ideas, from anyone who offers them, regardless of profession. We must attract clever and talented people into television.

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