A New public Broadcasting station in Georgia?
By Salome Modebadze
Monday, November 26
Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s suggestion about the possible unification of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and TV9 became the subject of public discussion. Discouraging GPB’s editorial policy, the PM said that the GPB tried to please the former United National Movement (UNM) instead of serving the interests of the people.
Ivanishvili said at a press conference on November 22 that if the GPB becomes “truly public,” he will close his wife’s TV channel and donate its building, equipment and other property to the GPB free-of-charge. He said it would be good if journalists now working for TV9 also joined the public broadcaster; otherwise he said, he would establish “a truly public television” on the basis of his wife’s TV9 so that his family will have no ties to the channel.
Ivanishvili said that the media should be independent from any government and promised that he will personally stand against its engagement in media activities.
The statement the GPB released on November 23 states that the General Director of GPB can decide whether or not to accept the transfer of TV9’s property or hire its journalists. However, discussion of GPB’s fate in any other aspect will be looked at as “pressure” and the “legalization” of the political will and interest of the Georgian Dream leadership.
GPB’s General Director Gia Chanturia said the two channels are different, even though every idea has a chance to exist.
According to UNM member Chiora Taktakishvili, Ivanishvili’s team has failed in fulfilling its election promises and is now trying to get rid of an objective broadcasting station.
Secretary of the National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, called Ivanishvili’s candid confession “shocking.”
Bokeria said Ivanishvili has now admitted that he does not like GPB and wants to unite it with his “propaganda machine” (TV 9).
In response to Bokeria’s accusations, the staff of TV9 called the secretary to apologize for slander. They also said they do not want to join any alternative TV channel.
General Director of TV9, Kakha Bekauri, also stated that Bidizna Ivanishvili has never interfered with the editorial policy of the channel.
Georgian Dream member Eliso Chapidze called Ivanishvili’s idea “great charity” aimed at strengthening public broadcasting. However, Rasto Kuzel, the Executive Director of Memo 98, said a public broadcasting station should have an opportunity to work independently.
According to Tamar Kordzaia, the executive director of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, the GPB is accountable to Parliament and the public and it is their responsibility to evaluate the GPB’s accomplishments, not the government’s. She said that PM Ivanishvili should desist from expressing personal concerns about the media– especially about the public broadcasting channel.
Media analyst Zviad Koridze suggested staging a public discussion over the GPB’s future. He said that discussions can help sort out the pros and cons of its financing and management.
A tax probe initiated by the Finance Ministry revealed that the GPB owes over 3 million GEL in unpaid taxes. The UNM believes that the current administration is attempting to oppress the public broadcasting channel, while PM Ivanishvili said on November 22 that he only wants to ensure that the public broadcasting station is transparent.“I do not want either to close any TV or leave any journalists jobless,” he said, explaining that the tax probe is a natural process that does not interfere with the journalists’ activities.