Gori TV-station accuses telecom regulator of double-standards
Trialeti TV, based in Gori, alleges that the Georgian National Communications Commission is granting special treatment to a local competitor.
In recent months, Dia, another local TV station in the Shida Kartli region, has become more visible. In November 2011, Dia was sold to Guram Gogoladze, whom locals in Gori described to TI Georgia as a friend of Lado Vardzelashvili, former governor of Shida Kartli and current Minister of Sports. Originally only broadcasting in the area around Kahsuri, Dia’s terrestrial signal can now also be received in Gori. Dia also recently took over the Gori cable provider Kosmos, through which it is reaching about 460 local households, according to 2011 data provided by the GNCC.
Trialeti TV has alleged that Dia is illegally using a frequency in Gori to feed its signal into the cable network. Shortly after Trialeti TV addressed the GNCC, inquiring about the frequency Dia is holding for Gori, the regulator fined Trialeti TV with GEL 5,000 for illegally using a frequency that was not allocated to them. (In comparison: In 2011, the GNCC imposed fines of GEL 2,500 on the national channels Imedi and Rustavi 2 for systematic violations of advertising regulation).
Trialeti’s management has appealed that decision, which has been preliminarily rejected by the Tbilisi Administrative Court on procedural grounds. The TV station claims they are using only a frequency they have been awarded several years ago by the regulator.
Compared to many other local TV stations, Trialeti TV offers diverse programming, including five newscasts per day, a daily interactive talk show called Tkveni Azrit (“In your point of view”), covering socio-economic and political issues, and the weekly program Sector, anchored by Giorgi Mgeladze, an investigative journalist working with Studio Monitor. (Trialeti TV has received donor support from IREX/USAID which is also supporting TI Georgia’s work in the media sector).
Jondo Nanetashvili, Trialeti TV’s director, claims that Dia enjoys government-backing and was set up to destroy his channel. “We are opposing the unfair, discriminatory attitude that GNCC has towards us, they have created opportunities for one TV Company and neglected us”, Nanetashvili told TI Georgia.
TI Georgia tried to get the view of Dia’s director on these allegations, but he did not respond to several attempts to contact him, following a first telephone conversation.
Since 2009, Trialeti TV, an independent although at times controversial voice, has been requesting frequencies from the GNCC for internal use that would allow the station to record live interviews and shows in Tbilisi and send the signal to its Gori office as well as a modification of its existing terrestrial license in order to improve the quality of its broadcast, the station’s management says. Trialeti TV’s management says they are yet to receive a final response from the GNCC on their request.
Meanwhile, the GNCC has announced the auction of a supporting frequency in Gori that would allow Dia to feed its terrestrial signal from the Gori TV tower into the local cable network, which at the time of the announcement was not yet owned by Dia. The decision on awarding this frequency will be made on May 1 at 13:00.
TI Georgia sought to hear from the GNCC if and on what legal basis Dia is currently broadcasting in Gori and what the reasoning was for not deciding on Trialeti TV’s requests to issue supporting frequencies to them. The GNCC would not immediately comment on the case.
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