Patriarchate’s radio station operating beyond the law
Transparency International Georgia periodically studies the ownership and activities of Georgian media outlets. Georgia has more than 60 broadcasters that operate on the bases of licenses or/and authorization awarded by Georgian National Communication Commission, a main regulator of telecommunications sector in Georgia which grants the right to use radio frequency spectrum through a competition. According to the law the Commission also monitors whether a broadcaster violates license terms; it is entitled to modify, halt, update or abolish the licenses.
The owner of the license in the broadcasting sector can be a Georgian citizen – a physical or a legal person – who isn’t representative or official of the administrative organ, political party, or is not registered in the offshore zone, etc. The legislation doesn’t restrict religious institutions to use the frequency spectrum. Georgian Orthodox Church, which enjoys higher public trust than any other institution in Georgia, operates TV and radio. The Patriarchy owns TV-Channel “Ertsulovneba” (Unanimity) which possesses the private license for specialized broadcasting and covers Tbilisi and its surroundings. The Patriarchy also owns radio “Iveria”. According to the National Communication Commission “Iveria” broadcasts in Tbilisi and in couple of other cities and is not registered in the list of broadcasting license holders, which means that Patriarchy operates radio “Iveria” without the license.
According to the Article 75 Paragraph 4 of the Georgian Law on Broadcasting the use of radio frequency spectrum without a license is prohibited; it is punishable under the Code of Administrative Offences of Georgia with 5000 GEL. The second offense will cause the fine of 10 000 GEL and repeating the offense – 50 000 GEL for each case.
In the case of unlicensed broadcasting not all the obligations of the Georgian legislation are applied to the company, namely it doesn’t pay the license fee, doesn’t fill up the declaration of compliance, and doesn’t disclose the information about the income to the Commission and the public.
In the past the Georgian National Communication Commission fined several companies for unlicensed broadcasting. (“Odishi”, “TV company Trialeti” “Ltd. Satelitservice”, etc.) Even though the regulator has been aware of unlicensed broadcasting by Patriarchate’s radio “Iveria” for several years, the Commission has not reacted on the violation of the law.