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Must Carry rules now in effect

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, August 6
Maestro TV, Kavkasia and TV 9 are now available throughout Georgia. According to the changes to Georgia’s Election Code, the cable operators have taken on the two-month Must Carry obligations under which they have to transmit all TV channels that feature news and political programming before Election Day on October 1, 2012.

The Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) monitors the process. Kakhi Kurashvili, Head of the Legal Department of GNCC, met with the representatives of the cable operators and the TV broadcasters and explained their obligations.

Stressing the importance of “rapid communication” between the two sides, Kurashvili said the TV companies should provide the operators with their technical parameters and ensure technical compatibility for further transmission. But he also explained that if the cable operators do not follow the Must Carry obligations, their authorization may be temporally suspended.

In the statement released on August 2, Silknet, one of Georgia’s largest cable operators, expressed their readiness to take on the Must Carry obligations within the deadline and transmit the TV channels which apply to them. Silknet’s spokesperson Nino Daraseli said that although their 65, 000 subscribers are waiting for Maestro’s broadcasting, they would transmit Maestro after they provide their technical parameters. But Maestro TV refused to send them the written address demanding the company apologize for last year’s “rude” refusal about cooperation. “We will switch it on when it [Maestro TV] behaves properly… If there is a constructive dialogue, instead of pressure, every problem can be resolved,” Silk Road Group chairman Giorgi Ramishvili had then said.

Maestro’s parameters are available for everyone at their official web page, thus they say Silknet can simply carry out their obligations by including Maestro in their programming list. Moreover, Maestro’s technical director said the technical items for their IP TV format demanded by Silknet is not sold in Georgia and may need at least 2 weeks to deliver. “I can bring them the satellite receiver but they should ensure transmission of the signal in their format themselves,” he stated.

Founder of Maestro TV Mamuka Glonti emphasized the difference between the request and the obligation. He said if the monitoring results of the GNCC show that some cable operator has not included them, they will appeal to the court.

Rusudan Kapanadze spokesperson of Caucasus TV told Liberali that that although TV 9 owned by Bidizna Ivanishvili’s wife sent them the written address, the company got Maestro’s parameters from their web page and transmitted it.

The Coalition for Media Advocacy accused the GNCC of violating the Must Carry obligations. At Friday’s press conference, Levan Dolidze said the GNCC has hindered execution of the Must Carry obligations and media plurality prior to the elections. In addition, he said the commission should have published the information about the broadcasters and the cable operators authorized for their transmission under the Must Carry principles. But Kakhi Kurashvili asked Maestro TV to “stop creating an artificial barrier” and apply to Silknet.

General Director of TV 9 Kakha Bekauri also faced some problems with several regional operators. He said their official addresses provided by the GNCC did not exist.

According to the Head of the Regional Broadcasters Association Natia Kuprashvili, the cable operators should be more interested in cooperation with the broadcasters not vice-versa.

Adopting the changes to the Election Code, the Georgian parliament hoped that the diversity of information would contribute to the transparency of the upcoming elections. Cable operators had three-days to include TV companies in their list from August 1 when the Election Day was officially announced.

The last information released by the GNCC on August 3 informs that by 4 pm that day, of the 180, 000 subscribers to cable operators, 92% could watch the Ninth Channel, 86% - Kavkasia TV, and 62% Maestro. The legal deadline for cable operators to include the broadcasters in their lists expired at 12p.m on August 3. The Messenger wanted to contact the GNCC spokesperson to get news about the process but she was out of the coverage area.