Oscars: Ukraine Crisis Pushes Awards Coverage to Back of European Newscasts

The Oscars got scant coverage abroad as Ukraine crisis looms.
The Oscars got scant coverage abroad as Ukraine crisis looms.
 AP Images

Worries about a new Cold War heating up in the Ukraine put a damper on news coverage of the Oscars internationally on Monday. The hard news of Russian troops apparently seizing military installations in Ukraine pushed the glitz and glamor of the 86th Academy Awards to the bottom, or even off, news bulletins in Europe and other parts of the world.

The Academy Awards news on many newscasts served as an entertaining sendoff item following coverage of the harsher political reality nearby.

After a typical Oscar night, viewers in Europe can expect to wake up to TV and radio newscasts -- as well as online sites -- trumpeting this year's winners alongside analysis and commentary from local film pundits. It was a somewhat different story on Monday, with images of the red carpet replaced with footage of thousands of Russian troops securing Ukraine's Crimea region, a move Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said was in defense of the local ethnic Russian population and which the world's seven major industrialized powers have condemned as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.

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In the U.K. the local industry would be expected to lay claim to the best picture win for Brit director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave -- as well as take some credit for Alfonso Cuaron's seven-strong Oscar-winner Gravity, whose groundbreaking cinema technology was developed in the U.K. -- with blanket coverage. But the triumph and celebrations were muted as the news continued to be dominated by the escalating military activity by Russia in Ukraine and the growing prospect of war in the Eastern European territory, turmoil British foreign secretary William Hague described as the "biggest crisis" to face Europe in the 21st century.

The Oscars got later mentions on newscasts across the BBC, BSkyB, ITV and Channel 4, landing at the end of the bulletins in the slot often reserved for feel-good news items. Other breaking news, including continued unrest in Venezuela and the start of the live televised murder trial of South Africa “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius, dominated broadcasts and headlines.

While French news outlets sent out pre-sunrise alerts about the Oscar wins, which wrapped up just after 6 a.m. local time, the morning news focused on the Ukraine situation. News channels such as BFM were providing live updates, while the Oscars were covered in shorter segments, highlighting just the big honors as well as the lone French win of the night, for Laurent Witz's and Alexandre Espigares Mr. Hublot in the animated short category.

The sites of French newspapers were also focusing on the burgeoning political crisis in the Ukraine and a financial scandal within the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, with reports from the Oscars came as the third or fourth stories on home pages.

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Jared Leto made reference to the unrest in Ukraine and Venezuela during his acceptance speech when he received a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

"To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here and as you struggle to… to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible," he said. "We’re thinking of you tonight.”

The one notable exception in the international Oscar coverage was Italy, where banner headlines proclaiming Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty winner of the Best Foreign Language film Oscar bumped news of Ukraine and soccer scores -- not to mention the rest of the Oscar ceremony -- down the lineup. Social media in Italy was also abuzz with the news. The Great Beauty marks the 11th Italian film to win the foreign-language trophy, but its just the first in 15 years, since Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful won three Oscars, including best actor and best original score in 1998.

Further east, Ukraine pushed the Oscars off the news cycle entirely. Russia's state-run Channel One dropped live coverage of the Academy Awards to focus on covering ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The network said it was “inappropriate” to air five hours of Oscar coverage and instead opted for rolling reporting from and about Ukraine, including a talk show with leading Russian politicians. Ukraine has accused Russia's state-run TV stations of misleading reporting and propaganda in its coverage of the crisis.

In Japan, the Ukraine situation also led the news headlines, with the Oscars getting scant coverage. On the website of Japan's biggest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, the standoff in Kiev was the top story, with the report on the Academy Awards reduced to a  three-line article buried near the bottom of the page.

Eric J. Lyman in Rome, Rhonda Richford in Paris, Georg Szalai in London and Gavin Blair in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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