GEO

Planned Changes on Channel One May Violate Law

01 August, 2017

Transparency International Georgia received a confirmation by the Public Broadcaster management that the new television season may be launched from January 2018. This time, the management notes that the launch of the television season was delayed because of an ongoing technical improvements made for the channel. The management submitted the technical improvements plan to the Board of Trustees at the 29 June meeting which was approved by the Board. However, the representatives of the management never mentioned at the meeting that the technical improvements plan would cause a delay of the launch of the television season.

In addition, Ia Antadze, Director of Strategic Development Center of the Public Broadcaster, told Transparency International – Georgia, that Moambe will continue to be aired and an election project will also be added, which will probably be on the air from 15 September to November.

We believe that this decision:

  • may violate the law;
  • makes the purpose of the Broadcaster’s reform more vague;
  • does not reflect the program priorities set for the Broadcaster.

Law on Broadcasting defines substantive obligations of the Public Broadcaster. Among others, the Broadcaster has the obligation to:

  • ensure providing timely and complete information to the public about important events in Georgia, its regions and the world;
  • broadcast news and social-political programs in prime time, and during election campaigns – also election campaign debates.

According to the same law, the Broadcaster has the obligation to carry out the program priorities set by the Board of Trustees, which prioritizes informational programs, news, political-analytical programs, journalist investigations, and cultural, educational and science programs. In case the management does not comply with the priorities and the Board does not take effective corrective measures for such compliance, the Law provides that Parliament will have the power to vote on no confidence of the Board.

According to the Broadcaster’s management, they will not violate the program priorities because the Public Broadcaster is more than Channel One, as it also includes the radio and the web platform which will actively cover the issues contemplated under the noted priorities.

It is notable that the rating of the Public Broadcaster radio is not measured while a considerably small number of people in the Georgian regions have access to the internet as compared to the television. Even the program priorities of the Public Broadcaster concede that the vast majority of the public is television viewers. Therefore, we believe, replacing the television with the web platform and radio will contravene the purpose of the Law which requires that a television product, that is as diverse and tailored to as many types of viewers as possible, be provided to as many users as possible. Consequently, this decision of the management probably constitutes an incomplete compliance with the Law.

Therefore, Transparency International Georgia calls on:

  • The Board of Trustees – to control the compliance with its priorities by the Broadcaster’s management;
  • The Parliament - to get involved in the ongoing processes in the Public Broadcaster.

With respect to staffing the Broadcaster, according to the management of the Broadcaster, employment contracts will be entered into for programs that were selected via competition. Therefore, they will receive salary during the period of 6 months when the programs will not be on the air. The management explains it by noting that these programs need work and preparation before they can be aired. However, up till now, there are still no answers to the questions:

  • whether 6-month period is really necessary for preparing the program selected via competition;
  • how the Public Broadcaster is going to raise its viewership only by airing Moambe and the election project while, even when diverse programming is aired, the viewership of the Public Broadcaster is very low.

Transparency International Georgia supports the idea that the Public Broadcaster requires reforms. However, we believe that the process needs to be transparent and the interested groups of the public need to be involved. Most importantly, the public, whose taxes finance the Broadcaster, must be informed about short- and long-term plans of the Broadcaster.

Tags: Media, Media Environment, Public Broadcaster