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The opposition can't buy TV ads

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, April 22
A 30 second primetime political ad on Georgia's two leading television stations, Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV, costs between USD 6,000 and USD 16,000. The opposition parties taking part in the local elections have described these sums as "astronomical".

Political advertising rates during popular programmes, such as soap operas or Champions League matches, are particularly high. Ads during the UEFA Champions League semifinal on April 21 and final a month later cost USD 16,000, with a 30 second slot during the 9pm news programme Kurieri costing USD 13,000 and one in the weekly Kurieri P.S. going for USD 12,000. Ads during late evening comedy and entertainment shows cost USD 10,000. A political advertisement on Rustavi 2 costs ten times more than a standard commercial on the same television channel. On the second most popular TV channel in Georgia, Imedi TV, a 30 second ad during the hugely popular comedy series Shua Kalakshi costs USD 15,000. Ads on other entertainment and comedy shows cost between USD 10,000 and 11,000. A 30 second political ad during Imedi TV's 8pm news bulletin, Kronika, costs USD 10,000.

The above figures are given by the civil.ge website and confirmed to The Messenger by opposition parties. However free political commercials are available on stations, especially the Public Broadcaster, which are legally obliged to allocate time for them. Under the existing law qualified political parties, meaning those which won at least 4% of the vote at the last Parliamentary elections and at least 3% of the vote in the last local elections, must be granted 30 seconds of free airtime an hour by private television stations and 60 seconds by the public broadcaster. Opposition parties have told The Messenger that they are unable to place paid commercials on TV but are already using their allocated free seconds.

"It is absolutely obvious that opposition parties, meaning those not connected with the present Government, are unable to place any kind of paid commercials on either on Rustavi TV or Imedi. The prices demanded by those channels are unbelievable and our financial means do not enable us to pay. The prices are one more confirmation that the Georgian media is controlled by the present Government. Just look at it from the commercial viewpoint: if the channel's management knows that no one will buy its time it will not set such a high price. They have an agreement with the authorities and know that the Government will pay these prices, Manana Nachkebia from the Alliance for Georgia said.

Mayoral candidate from the National Council Zviad Dzidziguri had the same opinion. "These are just astronomical prices, and in spite of the fact that the National Council is trying to attract some financing I do not think we will be able to put paid commercials on TV. The Government is behind this, it is trying to prevent us holding a proper campaign, Dzidziguri told The Messenger.

The opposition's accusations have been dismissed by the official authorities. "Under the law, and everyone can check this, each commercial TV channel has the right to set any price it wishes for advertisements. The law does not limit them in this direction. The Government cannot interfere in such issues. Our aim is to hold free and democratic elections and we are doing our best to do this, MP Davit Darchiashvili told The Messenger.