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Media Representatives Quit Session over Public Broadcaster in Protest

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, February 19
(TBILISI) - Several representatives from private media outlets have quit the meeting in Parliament over the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) in protest, accusing Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze of ignoring their arguments and “lobbying biased governmental interests”.

The meeting, which was held last week, aimed to give space and time to private media representatives to prove their views why they believed that the GPB, the only state-financed media, must not be provided with additional benefits.

Nino Jangirashvili, from the Kavkasia TV, stated at the meeting that the GPB must not be given a right to attract commercials, as the channel receives more than 50 million GEL budgetary financing annually.

“All the other media outlets, except the GPB, are dependent on commercials. The commercial market has decreased since 2014 and if the Public Broadcaster is also granted the right to release commercials, it will take part of the product and weaken private broadcasters,” Jangirashvili stated.

Kobakhidze called Jangirashvili a liar and claimed that the commercial market has increased.

The Rustavi 2 private broadcaster representative shared Jangirashvili’s view and claimed that the media representatives had official figures, confirming the decrease.

“However, Kobakhidze did not wish to have a look on the figures. His actions were destructive. If the State Regulatory Company told Kobakhidze about the increase, the head of the agency must have been present to prove this,” Tamta Muradashvili from the Rustavi 2 stated.

Both Jangirahsvili and Muradashvili quit the meeting as a sign of protest.

The president, NGOs and the opposition strongly oppose planned changes in the broadcasting law, saying that the amendments will affect the Georgian media.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting on January 15, 2018.

Now the parliament discusses whether to override the veto.

Last week the parliament’s Economic Committee could not agree on the issue and the voting will be held again.

Before the renewed voting, Kobakhidze announced the meeting with the media.

He stated that such a meeting could facilitate decision-making by lawmakers in terms of the presidential veto.

The amendments adopted by parliament in December 2017 enable GPB to release commercials on working days in order to generate more money for development, which was labeled as a "forceful strike” by almost all private broadcasters in the country.

The changes read that the GBP can redirect the input of state financing for encouraging start-up businesses, TV-radio and online products.

Based on the amendments the Law on State Procurements will not expand to programs prepared by independent legal entities that will take up no less than 25 percent of GPB broadcasting.

Restrictions provided through the Law on State Procurements will also not expand to programs, films, and TV series aired by the GPB as well as to resources which are needed for making such products.