Failed experiment

A year ago, the Ministry of Culture launched The Gaze, which was supposed to be a competitor to the BBC and Deutsche Welle, but it failed
30 May 2024

Last June, the state-owned International Broadcasting Multimedia Platform of Ukraine (IBMPU), which is subordinated to the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, launched an English-language media platform.The Gaze. The idea was to tell foreigners about Ukraine in the context of European integration in an unobtrusive and interesting way.

However, the implementation of this idea was questionable from the very beginning. Four months after the launch of the new state media platform, discovered that tens of millions from the Ministry of Culture’s budget were being spent on content that hardly anyone consumes. After the publication, Artem Bidenko, a freelance advisor to the IBMPU who helped launch The Gaze, said it was too early to draw conclusions about the inefficiency of spending public money, saying, “give us time and we will show you”. 

Well, a year has passed since the project’s launch, and The Gaze’s performance continues to be, putting it mildly, pathetic. Meanwhile, the IBMPU continues spending millions of hryvnias on creating contents and changing contractors, and the latter seem to lack full understanding of what they are doing.

How much does it cost?

To get information about all the expenses for The Gaze for the year (creative part, promotion, technical support, etc.), asked the State Enterprise Multimedia Broadcasting Platform of Ukraine to provide a detailed budget for the project. However, Artem Vyshnevskyi, Deputy Director General for Production at the IBMPU, refused to provide this information, claiming that it was impossible to calculate the expenses spent on The Gaze directly.

“The enterprise does not create or order the creation of contents exclusively for The Gaze digital platform. The content created by SE IBMPU has been broadcast, is being broadcast or is planned to be broadcast in the future through its other resources – websites, social media pages, YouTube channels of the Enterprise, etc”, – Vyshnevsky said in his response to’s request.

It is noteworthy that in August last year, the IBMPU provided comprehensive information on the project costs for The Gaze and it caused no problems whatsoever. analyzed all contracts with contractors as of May 2024 inclusive to be able to calculate the costs of this project on our own. According to our estimates, over the 12 months of operation, The Gaze’s contents (texts and video programs) alone cost UAH 76.3 million, and UAH 60 million has already been paid to contractors. Another 14.5 million UAH і two contracts in 2023 and another one in 2024   was allocated for technical support of the website, and UAH 12.1 million has already been paid.

In total, The Gaze has made contracts worth UAH 90.8 million over one year, and UAH 72.1 million has already been paid to contractors.

What are the results?

Presently, The Gaze’s current audience is about 16.6 thousand unique visitors per month і A unique visitor is a user who has visited the site at least once in a month, according to SimilarWeb . This is very little, especially considering the financial resources involved. For comparison, the average monthly audience of the English-language Ukrinform, which is also state-funded, is over 880 thousand unique visitors. By the way, a significant amount of news on The Gaze are reposts from Ukrinform itself.

The content of The Gaze website has not changed much: it continues to publish news sourced from the social networks of Ukrainian and foreign public figures, reposts from foreign media and Ukrinform. In addition to political and economic news, readers are also offered  lifestylesportstourism etc.

At the same time, The Gaze editors are not known for their efficiency. For example, the results of the football match between Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina played on the evening of March 21, were reported at noon on March 22. And The Gaze readers had a chance to learn about boxer Oleksandr Usyk’s phenomenal victory over Tyson Fury only on the evening of May 19, even though the fight ended around two in the morning.

The site also features reviews and analytical articles on economic and political topics. From time to time, the platform publishes materials from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), columns by politicians, etc.

A media project without an editorial team

In October last year, Artem Bidenko, the then freelance advisor to IBMPU, claimed that Denys Bezlyudko was The Gaze’s editor-in-chief і In the past, Denys Bezlyudko was the head of the Ukrainian News Agency and used to work in the management of the RBC-Ukraine agency , but now the IBMPU assures he no longer cooperates with The Gaze.

The media project which received more than UAH 90 million in investments, has no chief editor and no proper editorial team too. These are various private contractors that create the contents, while individual stories or projects are made by the IBMPU staff themselves, and technical support is provided by a third-party company.

“We don’t have a separate editorial team for The Gaze. We have an editorial board that makes key program and editorial decisions. There are departments shared by all units of the State Enterprise IBMPU that are responsible for service functions, finance, legal support, security, maintenance, IT support, human resources, etc. […] some of the production tasks for The Gaze are performed by our full-time employees [of the IBMPU]. For instance, these would be news stories or our new project,” Expats in Ukraine, Yulia Ostrovska, the IBMPU Director General, stated in her written response  to’s inquiry. “Some other tasks are handled by external contractors who have won art competitions or open tenders, and with whom the State Enterprise IBMPU has concluded the applicable contracts available on Prozorro. The number of people involved in these projects is the contractors’ responsibility.”

Artem Bidenko, who was previously involved in the launch of The Gaze and advised the IBMPU, is now steering clear from the project.

“I decided that if you make the amendments to your articles that I indicated in Detector Media, I will return to this project. And since no amendments were made, I am no longer involved in this project,” Bidenko told in a telephone conversation. 

A taciturn billiard player

Now there is a new contractor who has been creating news and articles for The Gaze since November 2023. It is Serhii Hilevych, 58, a member of the Ukrainian Billiards Federation and owner of the specialized website “Billiard Information Site Duplet”. It was with him that IBMPU concluded two agreements totalling UAH 9.9 million, and Hilevych has already been paid UAH 2.2 million.

Serhii Hilevych (Facebook photo)

Serhii Hilevych (Facebook photo)

The contract between IBMPU and Hilevych, which is effective until the end of the year, states that the price of each publication includes “promoting to the English-speaking audience”. Taking this requirement into account, the cost of one publication can vary depending on its size: 9,780 UAH (3,000-4,000), 16,400 UAH (4,500-7,000 characters), 41,400 UAH (8,000-16,000 characters). At the same time, the agreement does not specify any methods of “promoting to the English-speaking audience”.

At first, Serhiy Hilevych refused to talk to and asked us to send him a written request. When he received questions about the number of employees, their work experience, and the algorithm for creating, publishing, and promoting materials, he categorically refused to answer.

“I have consulted with them [probably the IBMPU], they are my partners, and we cooperate. If you want to write an article in which you will, so to speak, sort things out with them using me, it doesn’t sit well with me. If you have problems with them, talk to them,” Hilevych said over the phone. “I am cooperating with them and I my greatest desire is to end this work nicely, on a good note […] Write me an email, I will send it to their legal department, and when they write a response to your request, I’ll forward it to you. If they give no answer, then there will be none.” і at the time of publication of this material, we have not received any substantive response] .

Currently, Hilevych remains the sole producer of text content for The Gaze; the agreements with his predecessors mentioned in the previous story have expired and have not been renewed.

Video content has changed

Over the past six months, the visual part of The Gaze’s content has undergone significant changes. Some of the shows that were launched when the project started are no longer produced, for instance, the puppet show Hidden Angle, cooking show Chefs Next Door, history program History&Culture and others.

In this period, YouTube channel The Gaze grew to 23,600 subscribers і for comparison: in September last year it had 6,500 thousand subscribers and just over 4 million views. However, most of the programs consistently get a few dozen or hundreds of views each, while the programs that have already been discontinued remain among the most popular on the channel.

Statistics from The Gaze YouTube channel show that most videos get only tens or hundreds of views

Statistics from The Gaze YouTube channel show that most videos get only tens or hundreds of views

New programs by The Gaze published on YouTube (War is AlgebraStop FakeExpats in Ukraine) are not very popular either.

However, the IBMPU does not give up and continues signing agreements for the video content production. In their answer to, IBMPU representatives claimed that several new shows would be released on The Gaze platform by the end of this year:

  • AI Prompt:Ukraine (30 episodes, UAH 33,500 each + 60 video shorts, UAH 750 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Kysilevych Dmytro Petrovych. “AI is the main character of this show. It is its view that becomes the main topic for conversations about the history and present of Ukraine,” states the program description in the agreement with the contractor.  
  • Economics of War (20 episodes, UAH 28,500 each + 40 video shorts, UAH 750 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Kysilevych Dmytro Petrovych. 
  • Unknown History (30 episodes, UAH 28,500 each + 60 video shorts, UAH 750 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Kysilevych Dmytro Petrovych. 
  • Соціальні Порівняння: Україна vs.Europe, (50 episodes  UAH 15,000 each, adaptation into Arabic and Spanish for UAH 1,000 per episode + 100 video shorts, UAH 500 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Krul Maksym Yuriyovych.
  • Foreigners helping Ukraine, (20 episodes UAH 50,000 each, adaptation into Arabic and Spanish for UAH 1,750 per episode + 40 video shorts, UAH 750 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Yatsenko Maksym Volodymyrovych.
  • Making beautiful things out of military stuff (20 episodes UAH 40,000 each, adaptation into Arabic and Spanish for UAH 1,750 per episode + 40 video shorts, UAH 750 each), produced by individual entrepreneur Yatsenko Maksym Volodymyrovych. 

The production of these new programs alone will cost the state enterprise UAH 5,500,000.

The IBMPU was working with Dmytro Kisylevych and Maksym Krul before, and has already mentioned them. However, the new contractor, Maksym Yatsenko, 41, has tried many different roles in his life. For example instance, back in 2019, he was actively sharing the results of the “Affordable Medicine” campaign on Facebook і the state program that was launched in 2018 and provided for the construction of outpatient clinics in villages . Yatsenko was selling disinfection equipment to hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The following year, the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Solutions LLC і now the company’s name is “Barkhon DST” he co-owns concluded agreements with public hospitals to supply medical masks and protective suits. At the same time, Maksym Yatsenko conducted sociological research for the Center for the Protection of the Information Space of Ukraine, a state-owned enterprise under the Ministry of Culture. 


Even small donations make big investigations possible

As of 2022, the main activity of entrepreneur Maksym Yatsenko was “taxi services provision”. In 2024, he began to cooperate with the IBMPU and received contracts to shoot two programs for The Gaze. To do this, he changed the main activity of the individual entrepreneur from taxi services to “commercial activities management and consulting”.

In a telephone conversation with, Yatsenko promised he would comment on his cooperation with The Gaze and his experience in video production in a few days, but then stopped contacting us.

In total, Yatsenko’s programs will cost the IBMPU budget UAH 2 million, but the entrepreneur has not been paid anything yet.

“Of course, we want more”

The IBMPU emphasizes that all the programs created for The Gaze are also broadcast on the YouTube channel of UATV, another much more popular public broadcasting project. The Gaze’s programs have better performance on this channel and sometimes receive several thousand views.

Yulia Ostrovska, Director General of the State Enterprise IBMPU (photo by Detector Media)

Yulia Ostrovska, Director General of the State Enterprise IBMPU (photo by Detector Media)

In general, IBMPU considers the results of The Gaze project for the year of its activity as successful, in particular due to the decrease in the number of views from Ukraine and, accordingly, the increase in the share of foreign viewers from abroad.

“Regarding evaluations and results, I would like to note that it is important in which system of coordinates we evaluate a project and what we compare it with,” explained Yulia Ostrovska, Director General of the State Enterprise IBMPU, in her answer to “I won’t be mentioning any digital platforms of Ukrainian domestic media now, but I will refer to the previous experience of foreign broadcasting, in particular, YouTube channel UATV English in 2017-2019. Our team is often reproached for allegedly “killing foreign broadcasting”. So, in the first three years of its existence, this channel had 15,700 subscribers and 4,600,000 views, with a 7.4% share of views from Ukraine. Media community recognized this experience as success. In less than a year, The Gaze has repeated and surpassed this result in some ways”.

According to her, the IBMPU continues looking for formats and ways to attract new audiences. To this end, they are planning to announce a tender for the “comprehensive promotion” of their digital platforms in English, Russian and Spanish.

“Of course, we want to have more, but we shouldn’t forget that The Gaze operates in a very saturated market, so we are constantly looking for hooks that can catch the right audience, launching new projects, giving up something and experimenting,” Yulia Ostrovska is hopeful about the future.

Author Kateryna Rodak, editor Oleh Onysko, cover Rostyslav Abramets

This material was prepared with the financial support from National Endowment for Democracy. The publication contents is a sole responsibility of the editorial team and does not reflect the views of National Endowment for Democracy