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Parliament confirms changes regarding Law on Broadcasting

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 3
With its third and the final reading, parliament confirmed changes in the law on broadcasting. Various amendments were carried out concerning the board of trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and the number of board members has been decreased. The president will no longer be involved in the appointment of board members. The amendments are related to the Must Carry legislation and the bill obliges cable providers to transmit television channels with news programs beyond the pre-election period. Through the draft, Adjara TV will move to the public broadcasting model. The changes were confirmed on May 31.

Currently, there are 15 members on the Board of Trustees of GPB. According to the existing rules, the president selects three candidates for each of the 15 seats on the board and then the parliament approves one of those three candidates for each seat. According to the amendments, the president will no longer have the right to carry out the action and the number of trustees will be reduced to 9. Board members are elected for six-year terms.

“Three members of the board will be nominated by the parliamentary majority, three by the parliamentary minority group and other lawmakers who are not part of either parliamentary majority or minority groups; two candidates by the Public Defender and one by the local legislative body of Adjara Autonomous Republic,” the draft reads.

The new rule according to the bill will have to go into force from January 1, 2014, and the power of the current board members will be suspended on that date.

The six candidates named by the parliamentary representation will be discussed by the special committee created at the parliament for this purpose consisting of civil society representatives.

If the selected board fails to meet its obligations, the parliament will have the right to dismiss the board and for this 90 votes will be required.

Changes concerning Adjara TV envisage turning the channel into a public broadcasting station. Currently, the channel is subordinate to the autonomous republic’s government.

When the draft becomes law, Must Carry will become obligatory for cable companies during the whole period and not only during the election period, as it took place with regard to the 2012 Parliamentary elections.

The parliamentary majority claims that the changes will solve the problems concerning the broadcasting and make the GPB a real public television station and not the satellite of a political force.

This aspiration is not shared by the United National Movement members. According to them, various changes are unacceptable and the opposition was unable to present their views on the case. MP, Chiora Taktakishvili stated that the Georgian Dream coalition discussed the bill with its second hearing on May 29, when the National Movement boycotted the session in protest due to the arrest of the UNM secretary general, Vano Merabishvili.

In response, Parliament Chair, Davit Usupashvili, stressed that the parliament could not have suspended its activities due to the absence of opposition members.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association assessed the changes positively and stated that the organization’s remarks were taken into account. Representative of the GYLA, Mariam Gogosashvili, told The Messenger that through the draft, the possibility of political influence being placed on the board of trustees is reduced to a minimal level. “It was the suggestion of the GYLA number for the trustees to be reduced to 9 and selected from various wings that would secure the board from political interference,” Gogosashvili stated, adding that the case of Adjara TV and the issues related with Must Carry were also positively solved.

“Progressive Draft and the step forward,” the assessment was made by the executive director of Transparency International Georgia, Eka Gigauri. According to her the fact that the term of the current trustees of the board expires in 2014 is a positive fact.

“There were discussions over the fact that some trustees should be dissolved earlier than others. Based on the agreement, the changing term was stretched to 2014 and all of them will be dismissed together at the same time. According to the current changes, the new way of forming the board does not allow for the changing of some members earlier,” Gigauri told The Messenger.