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Georgia’s Public Broadcaster Demands Commercial Advertising Rights

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, November 21
(TBILISI)--Georgia’s Public Broadcaster (GPB), which is a state-financed TV channel, is asking for the right to broadcast commercial advertisements.

The demand was rejected by representatives of other private TV channels and media outlets, who claim that the GPB receives up to GEL50 million (USD 18.51) per year from the state, giving it the ability to broadcast commercials that will create unequal conditions on the media market.

The issue is currently being discussed in the Parliament with opposition parties. Some members of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party have come out against the changes.

Georgia’s Head of Legal Issues Committee in Parliament, Eka Beselia, and the Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Sopo Kiladze, approve of the initiative and are calling for its adoption.

“The Public Broadcaster needs more resources. These changes will not affect the media market in the country,” said Beselia.

Kiladze has called on the Parliament to support the changes, adding they ensure the preservation and development of pluralism and provide objective information to the Georgian public.

Coming out in opposition, however, is a GD member David Chichinadze. He believes that granting the right of commercial advertising to the Public Broadcaster will restrict its independence.

“Giving the Public Broadcaster the right to commercial advertising will give certain companies leverage that they will then use to pressure the GPB into not broadcasting TV programs that have a negative affect on their businesses,” Chichinadze said.

Chichinadze also believes that Georgia’s advertising market remains very small, but financing of the public broadcaster from the state budget is increasing too rapidly.

Sergi Kapanadze, a member of the parliamentary minority European Georgia, condemned the proposal, saying the GPB should not have the right of commercial advertising.

“The new regulations will be a violation of the media market’s conflict of interest laws…Everyone knows that the Public Broadcaster receives significant funding from the government ... If it is able to attract more commercial advertisements, this will naturally damage other private TV companies,” said the MP.

The editor-in-chief of local newspaper Resonance, Lasha Tughushi, agrees that granting advertising rights to the GPB will significantly harm the media environment in the country.

“Such a law will not only harm private TV stations, but also newspapers, magazines and radio stations. It will also deprive them of the little income they have from advertising,” said Tughushi.

The annual budget of the GPB is directly linked to the economic growth of the country.

In 2017, the GPB received around GEL 46.4 million (USD 17.22 million) from the state budget, which was slightly higher from the last year’s GEL 44.5 million (USD 16.48 million).

According to the initial draft budget of 2018, which has yet to be introduced to the Parliament, the funding of the GPB will increase up to GEL 52.10million (USD 19.29 million).