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New GPB General Director elected

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, August 11
The Georgian Public Broadcaster Board of Trustees elected Gia Chanturia as its new General Director on Monday. Five of the eight board members voted for Chanturia, the current acting General Director and according to media representatives and experts the “favourite” candidate of the Georgian authorities. Two other candidates, journalist Zviad Koridze and film director Giorgi Kacharava received no votes, as three of the board members did not vote for any of the candidates and handed in empty ballots. The voting process was aired live on Georgian Public Broadcaster.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the result was revealed, the new General Director said he promised to make the channel “useful” for society. Chanturia noted that GPB will present renewed programming from October. He said that almost all programmes on the channel will be “absolutely new”, except some which according to him are “especially loved by the viewers.” Chanturia said none of the political forces will be able to pressure and influence GPB now he is running it. Many media experts have criticised the Georgian Public Broadcaster for being “biased” in favour of the Georgian Government.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Levan Gakheladze hailed the board’s choice, saying that Chanturia will be able to achieve things the station has been unable to do in previous years. “I am sure that the Public Broadcaster will become a channel which is interesting and desirable for everyone,” Gakheladze stated on August 10. “I think this will be very important for the development of the Georgian Public Broadcaster,” he added.

During his interview with the GPB Board Gia Chanturia mentioned that he would create a new, more effective and flexible management structure for the channel, and also give more power to the Board of Trustees. He also said that if elected he would make the channel’s finances more transparent. He also promised to air investigative reports.

The so-called “radical” opposition, who have rallied outside the GPB building and staged “corridors of shame” there as a protest against “Government pressure” on the channel and its “biased” news coverage, have said with the election of Gia Chanturia the channel has been “openly confiscated from society”. Speaking at a special press briefing on Monday, Pikria Chikhradze from the New Rights criticised the Board members for “not being brave enough to vote for other candidates.” She said that the Government has failed to fulfil its commitments despite its announcement of a “new wave of democracy” and the calls of the international community for the establishment of a free media in the country.

Some media experts say that with the appointment of Gia Chanturia as head of GPB the control of all major TV channels in Georgia has come into “one hand”, that of Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. Journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and media analyst Ia Antadze says that the election of a new GPB head should not be considered separately from similar appointments at the Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV channels (Nino Shubladze’s as Deputy General Director of Rustavi 2 and Giorgi Arveladze’s as General Director of Imedi TV.) “It is obvious that the circle of people controlling the nationwide TV channels has become narrower,” Antadze has told The Messenger. “This TV channel never belonged to the people and will still not belong to the people, at least for now,” she said.