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Ivanishvili to premiere new television channel

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 23
A new TV channel, founded by billionaire and presidential hopeful Bidzina Ivanishvili, will come on air in the near future, Ivanishvili’s press office said in a statement dated January 20. The channel is promoted as being fully editorially independent.

On January 17, Aktsept LLC (in which Ivanishvili’s wife, Ekaterine Khvedelidze, owns an 80% share, and Ivanishvili’s associate Kakha Kobiashvili owns 20%) bought Igrika, a firm which has a license to broadcast political programming via cable networks and satellite. The company was purchased for 20 000 GEL.

According to the press release, “Journalists... will have full editorial independence and that will be reflected in relevant financial liabilities and guarantees in contracts.” In order to ensure this independence, they will work with international foundations and organizations in Europe, although details were not provided. Involvement of outside entities is expected to "further strengthen establishment of editorial standards similar to those in the democratic world," and set "an important precedent on the path of development of Georgia’s independent media.”

The clashes between Ivanishvili and the current administration are well known, and critics claim he is a “Russian Project." Regarding the new channel, New Rights has stated that they do not "believe it to serve free media interest,” criticizing the establishment of news outlets by partisan political forces, and citing the example of Maesto TV. "I do not think the channel [will] keep neutrality and freedom,” a representative of New Rights, Manana Nachkebia, told The Messenger.

However, analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili says the appearance of a new channel is positive, "as there should be some alternative in [the] Georgian media space. There are government ruled media means and there are just two channels [which] broadcast some alternative and real information, however those two cover [a] very small area.” He doubts the channel will be impartial, especially during the election period, but welcomes any effort to provide alternative information to the Georgian public.