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Georgian NGOs, Media Criticize Amendments to Broadcasting Law

By Tea Mariamidze
Tuesday, December 19
(TBILISI)--Non-Governmental Organizations and Georgian private outlets publicly slammed new amendments to the country’s broadcasting laws that will see funding for the state-financed public broadcaster (GPB) skyrocket and grant it commercial advertising rights, while reducing the powers of the country’s board of trustees.

Opponents of the changes also claim that giving the public broadcaster the ability to broadcast commercials will create unequal conditions on the media market.

The Head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Sulkhan Saladze, says that under the amendments the GPB also receives the right to finance start-ups

“Next year the financing of the GPB will be around 53 million GEL ($13.77) which means the government will spend more money on GPB than on intelligence gathering or environmental protection,” he stressed.

“Our primary concern is that the Public Broadcaster wants to carry out its activities with minimum control and accountability,” said Nata Dzvelishvili, the Director of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics.

Editor-in-Chief of local outlet the Resonance, Lasha Tugushi, believes the Georgian president should veto the amendments, saying the changes will deteriorate media environment in the country.

“This bill is bad. It contains corrupt risks, destroys the advertising market andis directed against commercial channels,” Tugushi said.

Georgia’s Head of Legal Issues Committee in Parliament, Eka Beselia, claims the amendments to the Broadcasting Law are in line with international principles.

She added in European countries Public Broadcasters have the right of commercial broadcasting and Georgia should not be an exception.

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 ($17.22 million) from the state budget, which was slightly higher from the last year’s GEL 44.5 million ($16.48 million).

According to the budget of 2018, which was recently approved by the Parliament, the funding of the GPB will increase up to GEL 52.10million ($19.29 million).