On January 2, Belsat TV Director Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy told Radio Wnet about the Belarusians’ response to the grave situation of the channel. She also described the process of Belsat TV development, its programs, the groups of its viewers and gave reasons why the TV station deserves being given a helping hand.
Against the background of the ongoing solidarity action, the petition and letters in support of Belsat TV from Belarusians and Poles, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy began the interview by expressing her amazement at such a massive public response.
“People decided to support us. Of course, one can say that this is not the best part of Belarusians, but where does the majority react in such situations? In fact, nowhere. As a rule, it is the minority that acts.”
In the course of the interview, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy presented the profile of Belsat TV average viewers. The first group include Belarusian-speaking residents of Belarusian provinces. If it was not for Belsat TV, they would watch only TV stations in Russian.
“Our viewers in small towns and villages have poor access to the Internet (or do not have it at all). Having a satellite dish is de facto the only opportunity to watch an independent channel. This group is actually large, because there are many satellite dishes in Belarus.”
In cities, Belsat TV reaches out not to every viewer, but rather to those ‘conscious and concerned’, she said.
The host of the program Poranek Wnet wondered which Belsat TV shows are the most populer in the country.
“Again, there are two types of programs. The first build national awareness and historical consciousness of the Belarusian nation. It is the construction of national identity that we set as as a goal when launching Belsat. Therefore, there are historical programs which enjoy great popularity. Moreover, I have information that in several state-controlled schools in Minsk, they are used as for teaching history because there are no others! [The programs are in] the Belarusian language which is often replaced by Russian in public life. In fact, state-run TV stations are mainly in Russian.”
Of course, not all programs are dedicated to historical events; Belsat Tv journalists pay great attention to Belarusians and their problems.
“The programs of the second type focus on the life of ordinary people. Their episodes have a tremendous number of views on social networks, e.g. on Odnoklassniki, a Russian social network. On Odnoklassniki, some materials about human affairs were watched 300,000 and even 500,000 times.”
Moreover, Belsat airs news shows which are a far cry from those made by Belarusian state television, Romaszewska-Guzy stresses.
“We have never had an intention to be in opposition [to state-run TV]. If they make a report on some event, we never show it the other way around. Besides, they have a very specific way of giving information: they start with the things Lukashenka has done within a day. As far as I remember, the first 15 minutes [of a news show] is always devoted to him.”
The end of the interview might become the most interesting and important part for both Poles and Belarusians:
“From my perspective, one of the most important elements of policy towards the neighboring country is building friendly and good relations with its emerging elites. If anyone thinks Lukashenka will manage to form elites in Belarus, they are wrong. The elites in Belarus are shaping up now and have been developing over the last twenty years of independence. Building bridges [with Belarusian elites] and improving relations are the most significant challenges in our cooperation with the neighbouring country.”
“Another problem is the Russification of Belarus. Belarus will either be independent or Russian, there is no in-between. To put blatantly, Belarus’s independence is in our interest. We do not want to have Russia on the Bug,” Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy summed up.
In mid-December, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy told portal Wpolityce.pl with reference to unofficial information that the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs intended to reduce reduce financing the television channel Belsat TV by 2/3 and stop its broadcast in the Belarusian language. On a practical level, such changes would mean the closure of Belsat, the only independent Belarusian-language TV channel, which has become a permanent support of public opinion and national identity of Belarusians.
On December 18, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Wazczykowski voiced the ministry’s plans of Belsat TV transition to a web mode and its journalists’ transfer to TVP Polonia.