Has our Ukrainian-Canadian TV been hijacked?

Edit: The Ukrainian Credit Union has responded to the article below in the comments.

Last week on OMNI1’s Svitohliad, billed as a ‘current-affairs show.. on topics especially relevant to Canadians of Ukrainian heritage’, the show spent almost half of their air-time interviewing a fashion blogger, Marta Tryshak:


Marta prosted her Svitohliad interview on YouTube, complete with Ukrainian Credit Union commercial


I’m no fashion expert but after watching the interview the only connection between herself and Svitohliad’s directives was that she is Ukrainian, but the blog she promotes is not and is only dedicated to fashion.

Marta also promotes her contest for a shopping spree sponsored by the Ukrainian Credit Unionwhich happens to also be a sponsor of Svitohliad (she even records the bank’s commercial for her YouTube video). Is there a conflict-of-interest where the show dedicates significant time to the sponsors activities?

Almost half of the show dedicated to Ukrainian-Canadian topics is not only advertisements for their sponsors, but even outside interests:

The interview also promotes Marta on the cover of a new magazine that’s exclusively distributed by the Credit Union, but the magazine is not published by the bank – it’s a private business.

Is this a proper way for Svitohliad to operate, representing and informing our community? Shouldn’t it be focused on actual stories for Ukrainian-Canadians, instead of catering to its sponsors and private groups whom we don’t know, nor know how they operate? The Fall isn’t a slow news period either, Holodomor Awareness week begins in two weeks.

If you have a private business, perhaps you too should see if Svitohliad will interview you next. We haven’t been asked yet! Also, don’t expect any grants or advertising from credit unions here anytime soon.

Edit: A similar piece aired today on Kontakt on the ‘Stay Ukrainian my friends’ segment (both the show and the segment are sponsored by the Ukrainian Credit Union). But the vignette was very short, only one or two minutes long out of an hour long program. This is a much more acceptable solution, as this show spent much more time informing its viewers about news and events then pleasing its sponsors.

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22 thoughts on “Has our Ukrainian-Canadian TV been hijacked?

  1. I don’t have a problem with this. Marta Tryshak is a Ukrainian blogger – no problem. If the show is sponsored by the Ukrainian Credit Union – they are a “Ukrainian ” credit union. Where is the conflict of interest? By all means, other sponsors should step up to the plate. Let’s see what happens.

  2. I also don’t understand what the issue is. Granted it isn’t the best piece that the show has put on. But on the other hand Svitohliad has forthe last few years been criticised for being unable to attract the viewership of younger, as well as new to Canada Ukrainians. Sooo they tried bring in something a little more modern and current…maybe it didn’t work perfectly but at least they tried.
    As to your comment regarding UCU. Both of the “big” Ukrainian Credit Unions in Ontario were each founded by two of the largest Ukrainian organizations in the country, they pump hundreds of thousands of dollars in to the community each year, and do a lot of good work. If they want to take 20 or 30 mins to promote their work to the community then so be it. No one complains when Buduchnist pumps tens of thousands dollars in to Liga and CYM to ensure they stay a float, or when UCU sponsors the main act at Bloor West no one says a word. So if they want to show off their new contest (designed to get the community more involved in their cooperative) on a show which they essentially bankroll then all the power to them.

  3. Would you rather see another interview with Boris Wrz or Paul Grod (no offense to them) talking about the political situation in Ukraine? Lets shine some light on the diaspora and what we are accomplishing here… I would go on the show in a heartbeat to talk about insurance…

  4. Slawko Borys, If Svitoliad wants to attract younger viewers, shouldn’t they do so by tailoring their programming to a younger audience (I’d argue younger viewers can tell the difference between actual content and promoting its advertisers), and perhaps finally establish some sort of online presence? It is 2011 after all!

    UCU does contribute a lot of money but it comes from us to see our community supported, not to enhance the interests of the bank and its associates (we don’t even know who runs the UC Family magazine which generates ad revenue). And this is on the back of a show that’s supposed to keep the communy informed! Commercials have their place because they separate the content from its sponsorships, blurring the line between the two destroys the integrity of the show – which is happening – and robs the community of informative and quality programming. And with sorry state of the credit unions (from 13 merged down to 7 in just 6 years) there are less alternatives to take sponsorship from, giving the remaining few more power.

    Binka Kowal Cahute I think your wish has come true, you’ll see less Borys and more Opitz in the future. I have no problem if the show wants to showcase the efforts of the commuity, but it should be separate from the sponsors.

  5. Ukrainian Credit Union Limited often suggests stories to the media which we think will be of interest to other Ukrainian Canadians. Sometimes the media agrees with us, sometimes they don’t. We press release story ideas not only to Svitohliad, Kontakt, Noviy Shliakh, Meest Newspaper, UC Family Magazine, and a half dozen Ukrainian Radio programs, but also to local community papers in the markets where we operate and occasionally even to the national newspapers if we feel a story is important enough.

    In this particular case, several media outlets saw Marta Tryshak and her fashion blog as being interesting to a wider audience beyond her role as the Personal Shopper in our MasterCard campaign. Hence they ran with the story. Nothing very sinister about it.

    You would not say that they are beholden to their sponsors if you saw the dozens of story ideas that we send them that they do not act on. For example, our new branch location opening in Oshawa was covered only by one media outlet, and our “Member Appreciation Day on Bloor” was covered by two. On the other hand, no media outlet has so far chosen to cover our UCU Investment Challenge, http://tinyurl.com/8x2jeyk, which has generated tons of buzz in the online world, but zilch in the traditional media. We thought that this was a big story, the media disagreed. No problem.

    Regarding UC Family Magazine. I am pretty certain that they are not a sponsor of the Svitohliad program. But the magazine is in itself an interesting story. It would be remiss of Svitoliad if they didn’t cover its appearance in one way or another. Perhaps one day Svitohliad will do a separate story on this magazine to answer the questions you have posed about it? It seems to be highly popular in any case.

    Best regards,

    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Marketing
    Ukrainian Credit Union Limited

  6. Uh oh. I just interviewed the author of the book Before You Say Yes … The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Volunteer Boards. This is something that Ukrainian Canadians do a lot, and the author is of Ukrainian extraction. However the topic is not “Ukrainian” per se. So can I expect to get a drubbing when it airs on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio? 🙂

  7. Hi @Yuriy Diakunchak ,
    I appreciate you commenting on this story, I know it can be a risky venture to come out onto other sites representing the bank. Thanks for the insight on how the decision process is made, it seems to demonstrate the issue the article points out even if the method isn’t effective every time. Any television show that dedicates such a significant portion of its airtime to its advertisers deserves some questions to be raised.

    In addition to the program/sponsor concerns, what exactly is the relationship between the Ukrainian Credit Union and UC Family Magazine? It’s owned by a private corporation which is only distributed by your bank and generates advertising revenue, yet receives free (assuming) advertising on the very same show the bank sponsors! It’s a favourable position that any other publication or business would die for, this relationship I believe certainly begs an explanation.

    Thank you,

  8. Andrew,

    There is no formal relationship between Ukrainian Credit Union and UC Family Magazine. They distribute their magazine through our branches much like several dozen other publications do. We have placed a few small ads in their first few issues. I am not aware of the details of their distribution strategy in general and am not aware of any exclusivity of distribution through UCU branches.

    People should always ask questions about what they see or read. You saw the show and asked what the relationship between several participants is. Some of your questions were answered on the show that you watched. For example, Marta is the fashion columnist for UC Family Magazine, which was discussed during the show, hence the use of the magazine (including shots of the pages that her column appear on) as stills to illustrate the piece. If her column had been in the Toronto Star, then you would have seen images of the Star.

    The magazine chose Marta as a columnist based on their own estimation of what they think their readers would want to read. We did not in any way influence this decision nor were we a party to any discussions between Marta and the magazine.

    Marta and UCU do indeed have a formal relationship as you may surmise from our ads in the media and posters in our branches. She is the face of our MasterCard Shopping Spree with a Personal Shopper Campaign. It turns out that Marta’s long term relationship with Ukrainian Credit Union (a FatCat account holder since her school days), her interest in fashion, and our (at that time) upcoming MasterCard campaign all dovetailed into a natural fit and then further proved to be a great general interest media story.

    Ironically, it is conceivable that a reader of this blog might infer some formal relationship between yourself and UCU. I will state that outside of UCU being a follower of Ukrainian Canadian in the various permutations of the Interwebs, and vice versa, there is no formal relationship between our two entities that I am aware of.

    When I first read Marta’s blog last spring, I asked myself “What other interesting things are young Ukrainians doing out there?”. Turns out there are many things that members of our community do, and (surprise!) not all of the things they do are directly tied into Ukrainian things. But they are interesting nonetheless, and worthy of note. I truly hope that our media will be successful in digging up more such stories in order to make our TV shows, newspapers, magzines and radio programs more relevant to a new generation of Ukrainian-Canadians. If our decision to take a chance on a young Ukrainian-Canadian helps even in a tiny way to spark that movement, then Ukrainian Credit Union will be able to take satisfaction in having met our goal of building community.

    I call on the readers of this blog to think of other young members of our community who are doing fun, unexpected, interesting things, and bring these people to the attention of our media. Call Ron Cahute at Kontakt and pester him to feature these people on his new segment “Stay Ukrainian my Friend” (full disclosure – we are a sponsor and yes we want this show to be good and attract viewers – its a virtuous cycle, we sponsor Ukrainian media in order to help the community grow and stay in touch, in turn, we hope more community members use our services so we can grow and expand, and in turn provide more funds to support the community, rinse and repeat). Call Iryna Korpan on Svitohliad and let her know why she should devote time to this person. Call Yuriy Kus at Radio Meest or Inna Kruchek at Meest Newspaper. Call Noviy Shliakh or Postup or Pisnia Ukrayiny or any other show (full disclosure – yes we advertise on all of these media outlets, and no I don’t mind giving them some free publicity – we do it often on our blog and facebook page when there is a good reason to do so.)

    Best regards,
    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Markting
    Ukrainian Credit Union Limited

    P.S. Pawlina, good on you for bringing an interesting book to the attention of your listeners.

  9. @Yuriy Diakunchak ,

    Obviously you do have a formal relationship with the magazine if you sponsor it and distribute it at your bank! We on the other hand do not, any promotion between us is voluntary and does not involve an exchange of goods or services for money – there is a clear distinction between the two scenarios and I know you know the difference. Any reader that assumes all facebook posts and tweets are only a means of corporate sponsorship would lack a clear understanding of the technology.

    I would also argue that your relationship with UC Family Magazine is extraordinary, because how does a magazine – before they even publish their first issue – manage to secure advertising from the 2nd largest Ukrainian credit union in Canada and an a agreement to distribute it in its branches? It is a lucrative opportunity that I don’t believe many other Ukrainian Canadians would get under normal circumstances.

    Now while I have nothing new to add to the entire discussion about the role of sponsors in the media, I do agree that I would love to see this media highlight other members of the community doing what they do. But (and this is a big but!), how on Earth can individuals get a fair opportunity to showcase themselves when it has been clearly demonstrated that the sponsor and their promotion becomes the focus of the content, even in addition to their purchased advertising time? It’s a nice hypothetical, but it clearly just does not happen and I have not seen any evidence yet to the contrary.


  10. Ron Cahute doesn’t need to be ” pestered” to promote young Ukrainian Canadian talent in any venue… that is the mandate of his show.

  11. Andrew,

    We purchase a service from UC Family Magazine – advertising. It is thus a “formal relationship” in the sense that we have a similar formal relationship with our photocopy paper supplier and our wireless provider.

    A magazine like UC Family Magazine secures advertising from UCU much like anyone else who has advertising to sell does. They come to us well in advance, set up a meeting, explain what they intend to do, provide us with a list of ad prices, and then follow up regularly to make sure they have the latest ad. It’s not a mystery. Nor is it extraordinary. That is how every one of the media outlets we advertise in does it.

    It’s commendable that you would like to see the media highlight other members of the community. Now go do something about it instead of wondering about whether something is fair or not. Contact me at work and I will provide you with the names and contact information for any of the media people that I know. You should call them and give them story ideas as often as possible. You might be surprised how soon your persistence pays off. Media relies on its audience to give it story ideas.

    Instead of wondering whether someone has “special access” to the media, create your own “special access”. And this goes for anyone reading this discussion as much as it goes for Andrew. Be persistent, be helpful, give them the names and the phone numbers of people you think they should interview or events they should cover. Give them outlines of why they should be interviewing these people or covering these events i.e. “The Angle”.

    Don’t just call and say “I’m holding a bake sale tomorrow, please send over a cameraman.” Call two months in advance and tell them that you are holding a unique event that will be of intesrest to x demographic because it addresses y issue. Follow up with an email with as much information as you possibly can provide including a flyer, a backgrounder, names and numbers and email addresses of people to call. Write the story for them if you have to. Follow up with a call to ask if they have any questions about the event. Then a month in advance call to ask if they are sending a camera person or reporter to the event. Resend all the information you already sent. Follow up asking if they need directions on how to get there. Follow up again a week before to confirm whether they are coming. Get them to commit! Expect to be disappointed time and again when they don’t show up even though they swore they would (funny, for every dollar we spend on advertising, we get 3 reasons from the media why they won’t be able to cover an event that we have invited them to – how’s that for special access?). Do not be discouraged, eventually you will find the one story idea that the media cannot resist or say no to because it will be interesting to their audience. They will then do a story. Rinse and repeat.

    If you are persistent about your public relations activities, you will come to realize that getting media to highlight your pet projects is not something that requires purchasing advertising time. What it requires is devotion of time and energy. The same is true of people and organizations that spend money on advertising as it is of people who do not.

    Okay, this is all the time I have for an impromptu Public Relations lesson. Hope this helps you out to get what you need out of the media. Keep me posted on your success with this. It is up to all of us to take an active role in making Ukrainian media relevant to us rather than just complaining about it.

    Best Regards,

    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Marketing
    Ukrainian Credit union Limited.

  12. Yuriy you do have an agreement to exchange money for goods and services – that is about as formal a relationship as you can get. While I appreciate your advice to ‘go do something about it’, the fact that you’re commenting on here proves that I did – and I didn’t even need anyone to sponsor us (although we’ve been experimenting with Google AdSense this year, but we have no control over the ad content).

    I don’t have to wonder if you have ‘special access’ to the media, you do – you pay them money! And I can’t create my own ‘special access’ like you guys did because I don’t have half a million dollars of investments from the Ukrainian community for promotions, donations and advertising (according to your 2010 annual report). This is why Svitohliad used almost half its air time (and even a few minutes from Ron Cahute) to promote your interests, which leaves no time left for stories about the rest of us. Perhaps sponsors like yourself should recluse themselves from extra TV spots and remain strictly in commercials, so the media can focus on the actual community!


  13. Andrew,

    The main point of my previous post was that you don’t need half a million dollar to create “special access” to the media. You have already done it in a sense since at least one member of the media has commented on this blog post and no doubt others have taken note of it. If you were to persistently follow up with them (Ukrainian media), you would no doubt succeed in getting at least one of them to eventually interview you about your blog.

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ukrainian media starts paying more attention not just to bloggers, but other aspects of the use of social media by Ukrainian community groups and individual commenters such as yourself. It is becoming a very important tool of communication. In fact I personally probably find out more about events and other happenings in the Ukrainian community through my facebook account, than through any other means.

    Best Regards,
    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Marketing
    Ukrainian Credit Union Limited

  14. Thanks, but it’s hypocritical to say that the community (including myself) isn’t doing enough or not trying hard enough to be featured, while your bank and its clout dominates the small amount of air time available for us.

  15. Andrew,

    It is simply unfair for you to make an accusation of hypocracy. You asked earlier how someone gets advertising dollars, and I answered that the best way to do it is ask. You asked how someone gets air time on TV, and I answered that the only way to do it is to ask, ask, and ask again until someone says yes.

    It is easy to believe that only people with “clout” can get either of these things. It is harder to actually go and do something about it. I honestly don’t know how much effort you have put into getting coverage (or advertising). Perhaps you have put a lot of effort into it and the media (and advertisiers) simply have not reponded. I do know that many people with not one dollar of advertising money manage to get coverage all the time.

    Don’t give up.

    Best regards,
    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Marketing
    Ukrainian Credit Union Limited

  16. Hi Yuriy,
    The intention of this post was to point out the fact that bank sponsors a television show that spends a large amount of air time on the bank and its activities. That sort of loop threatens the objectivity of the show that is supposed to be featuring the community, not its sponsors.

    Over the past 4 years I have never inquired about sponsorship for this site, and won’t in the future to remain objective about the community. It’s hard not to be suspicious though when a magazine can secure a lucrative advertising deal and distribution from your bank without even publishing its first issue, and be featured on the same television show the bank sponsors as well. I don’t think it’s an arrangement that anyone could get so easily.

    I would love to see examples of regular Ukrainian Canadians being featured, but it just hasn’t been the case. When I tune into the shows, most of the features have major sponsorships which lead me to believe either everyone is getting sponsored or only the sponsored are getting featured (and I’m guessing it’s the latter). And while I thought this post would be more a criticism of Svitohliad than the UCU, you are the only who chose to respond. And while I commend you for coming out and responding, unfortunately you have to take the brunt of my criticisms.


  17. Andrew,

    I’m pretty certain that the word “lucrative” would not be the one used by the hard working people who publish our community’s magazines and newspapers and produce our TV and radio programs to describe the advertising revenues they are able to generate. They put in a lot of hard work to put out the product and are often lucky to be able to earn a living while doing so.

    I don’t know if they would categorize getting advertising as easy or hard. I guess it depends on whether they are natural sales people or not. But the ones that do get advertising do it by picking up a phone and convincing an advertiser that they have a product worth paying for.

    If that sort of simple and straightforward arrangement seems either mysterious or suspicous to you, then I guess there is not much that I will be able to say to convince you otherwise.

    Best regards,

    Yuriy Diakunchak
    Director of Marketing
    Ukrainian Credit Union Limited

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