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Help us to help Ukrainian children, families and protect Ukrainian culture

The situation in Ukraine has shocked the world, and in response many Pact members have been motivated to help in supporting financial or practical aid. In addition, members have also pulled programmes and business from Russia including - for some - closing Russian production subsidiaries at significant cost in lost revenues and investment.

Pact has been working since the early days of the invasion on what else we and the wider UK TV and film sector can do to help displaced Ukrainians, those who are still in Ukraine, and in the medium to longer term the Ukrainian AV industry.

It is clear that Putin is not only intent on trying to destroy their cities and infrastructure but also their culture. This can’t be allowed to happen. Brave workers wrapping and sandbagging statues or moving precious works of art to a safer place will ensure that these treasures will return when the war is over and the Ukrainians begin the long task of rebuilding their country, their infrastructure and their cultural lives. But what of their popular culture and their TV culture?

There are now close to 3m Ukrainian women, children, grandads and grandmas displaced across Europe with hopefully the UK welcoming many of them. These people - as we have seen - are being given sanctuary and support. But who knows when they can go back to their war torn country and begin to stich their lives back together.

Watching the first wave of people fleeing to safety several weeks ago I was struck by how many children there were. Tired, exhausted, and traumatised by the brutal involuntary relocation to another country.

These children will find a warm home, will have food in their belly and thanks to the generosity of so many fellow citizens will be looked after. What they won’t have is very much in Ukrainian that they can watch on telly, their phones or pads. In short, access to their popular culture. Programmes that can comfort, nurture and entertain young minds in their own language. They may watch Polish, Romanian, French and British programmes in their new homes. This can help with their assimilation into their new host societies, but it won’t help them maintain their own language or have access to programmes that form part of their culture and their now dislocated society.

So Pact has been working on several fronts to find a way that the might of the UK’s AV sector can support the Ukrainian diaspora in the UK, continental Europe (excluding Russia) and Ukraine.

With the support of the BBC, ITV, C4, C5, Sky, STV, S4C, Banijay Rights, All3Media Distribution, Fremantle, Little Dot Studios, YouTube, the BFI, Bafta, the RTS, the WGGB, DUK and Broadcast we have been working together developing a proposal to launch a new YouTube channel for Ukrainian children and families so that they can access great original Ukrainian and British kids programmes (dubbed into Ukrainian) wherever they are on their TVs, phones or pads.

The channel has yet to get a name or a launch date. It will be free to all, with no monetisation involved. No money will change hands and it will also be able to control rights by territory if required. All of the rights owning supporters mentioned previously are donating their time and expertise and where possible relevant programming to help make this a reality.

What do we need from members?

Pact is calling on members to do four things:

Firstly, do you have programming that could work on this channel? It can be animation, educational, comedy, live action, documentary, history anything that would play well with a broad children’s audience. It can be catalogue or contemporary.

Critically can you donate this for free to the new channel?

Secondly, can you cover the cost of getting this dubbed into Ukrainian? This is your cash contribution to these families so that their minds and hearts are fed as well as their bellies. We have yet to identify how we can do this at scale, costs are yet to be worked out and there are a lot of details and logistics to get sorted. As this happens, please look at what you can do to go the extra mile and not what you can’t do. Please think about how much comfort your own children have got from watching great content when they were tired or unhappy or when you simply needed a break.

We are also reaching out to Ukrainian producers, broadcasters, and distributors to try and secure more original Ukrainian content that these children already know and love. Challenging during a conflict when communications are often patchy.

Thirdly, do you know anyone who can help, have you contacts with a Ukrainian production company, distributor or broadcaster. Check you contacts, maybe you met someone at Miptv or Mipcom? 

Fourthly, can you help with the facilities for dubbing, if not is there someone you know who you can talk to and ask them to get in touch?

There are still many, many things to work on and more details will be communicated over the coming weeks.

The UK TV and film sector is rightly proud of being one of the world’s most creative, entrepreneurial, successful and can do industries. Now is the time to apply all of these qualities to help make this happen for the Ukrainian people and their culture,  people who need our support now more than ever.

Please get in touch with me direct john@pact.co.uk if you can help in anyway with this initiative.

We are also currently working on several other industry-focused projects which we will let you know about in due course.

John McVay OBE Chief Executive

John McVay is the Chief Executive of Pact. He has been involved in programme making as a producer, consultant and trainer since 1986.