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The fight for TV influence

By Messenger Staff
Friday, February 27
Parliament has just approved amendments to the Law on Broadcasting that envisages imposing time limits on television ads.

The topic has caused large-scale debate as some believe the government has a desire to create financial problems for one of the leading TV channels – Rustavi 2.

It is evident that Rustavi 2 is the most critical of the current government, and it is generally supportive of the United National Movement party.

The process might be temporarily delayed in the case of a presidential veto. However, if the new amendments come into effect, the channel’s income will be markedly decreased.

As a rule, television plays one of the most significant roles in any country’s political life. Many in Georgia remember the great merit of Rustavi 2 in the 2003 Rose Revolution. Since then the model-television became controlled by the government. Meanwhile the former UNM government dispersed and closed Imedi TV which was run by the late billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, as the channel portrayed the government’s wrongdoings.

The same government tried to reduce billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s influence in the lead-up to the 2012 parliamentary elections by introducing various restrictions in the legislation.

Rustavi 2 still attracts a large portion of ads. These will be revoked by the new amendments.

The amendments accepted by the legislative body will ensure that broadcasters are only able to allocate 12 minutes each hour for advertisements.

The changes will come into effect from April 1 if President Giorgi Margvelashvili endorses them.

The government and the initiators of the amendments from the National Communication Agency claim the aim of the amendments is to meet EU standards and regulations.

The Rustavi 2 has asked parliament to postpone adopting the law, as it would be hard for TV channels to change their broadcasting policy in the middle of the year. However, based on the reason of protecting the interests of viewers, the appeal was rejected.

The opposition United National Movement claims that the amendments are aimed to cause damage to Rustavi 2, as the channel would be most affected by the changes. They stress that the new regulations are “against the freedom of expression.”

The opposition has appealed to the president to veto the amendments.

Member of the opposition Free Democrats Nino Goguadze recognizes that many remarks have been taken into account while discussing the draft. However, according to her, the amendments might be described as interference in the channels’ private issues.

The Georgian Dream’s Gia Volski dismisses the opposition’s evaluations, saying that the regulations will not threaten the broadcasters.

The president might veto the draft. However, the majority has the power to override it.