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Tense debates in Parliament around proposed GPB Bill

By Keti Arjevanidze
Friday, April 5
Tense debates took place during the meeting of the Health, Social Affairs, Regional Policy and Governance Parliamentary Committee on April 4th. Included in the debates were proposed amendments about broadcasting.

United National Movement (UNM) members expressed disagreement about the proposals for selecting GPBís Board of Trustees and about the current boardís dismissal.

The changes concern the appointment process for the General Director of GPB and the GPB Board of Trustees. Currently the Georgian President nominates candidates for GPB's Board of Trustees who are ratified by Parliament. The proposed amendment would reduce the number of trustees on GPB's board from 15 to nine and give the Public Defender and both the parliamentary majority and the opposition a say in selecting candidates. The proposed amendment would also affect Ajara TVís status.

The author of the bill, Georgian Dream member Eliso Chapidze, said that political influence on GPB was very high during the previous administration, adding that in no other countries does the president select the head of the main public television station.

According to UNM members, the billís real aim is to dismiss the existing board. UNM member Davit Sakvarelidze proposed alternative ways for selecting GPB board members. He said that the Public Defender should not select board members. ďI propose that three candidates be chosen by GBPís staff, three candidates by the parliamentary minority and three by the parliamentary majority.

Media analyst Zviad Koridze described Sakvarelidze's proposal as "nonsense". According to Koridze, GPB employees should not participate in the formation of GPB's controlling body. "It's a serious conflict of interest." Koridze said.

Media analyst and co-author of the bill Lasha Tughushi responded to UNM members' accusations. Tughushi reminded them that the bill was proposed during the previous UNM government. "The billís authors are not going to nominate themselves as board members." Tughushi stated.

Tughushi emphasized that proposed billís aim is to change GPB in a positive way by making GPB's financial issues transparent to the public. Tughushi stressed that the GPB Board of Trustees is one of but not the only issue concerning the television station. "We are saying that the existing board must be changed because it does not work effectively." he added.

Irine Imerlishvili, Head of the Procedural Issues and Rules Committee, stated that the bill will be reworked but added that she supports the idea of three board members being nominated by GPB staff.