Assessment of Public Broadcaster’s Performance
15 December, 2017
The objective of the following report by Transparency International – Georgia is to assess the processes and existing challenges of the Public Broadcaster under its new management.
The research found multiple problems:
- Amendments to the Law on Public Broadcaster, adopted with its second reading, will have a negative effect on the media environment. According to the amendments, the Law on State Procurements will not apply to the Public Broadcaster when procuring content. This raises the risk of corruption. Additionally, the permitted time period for advertising and the sponsorship possibilities on the Public Broadcaster have been increased. The Public Broadcaster has a growing and stable income from the state budget. The entering of Broadcaster an already small advertising market will significantly damage private broadcasters.
- Certain procurements undertaken by the Public Broadcaster raise questions. The procurement bid won by the company of Goga Khaindrava for production of a TV series is most notable in this regard. Goga Khaindrava is a related person to Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister of Georgia – his company filmed Herokratia, a TV series about the former President of Georgia that had been commissioned by the TV channel owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s family. Another such questionable procurement took place when Bera Ivanishvili’s company won a contract on the provision of lighting (Goga Khaindrava is the director of the company). The procurement was currently suspended and Ivanishvili gifted the lighting equipment to the Public Broadcaster.
- The hiring policy is also non-transparent. Employees of GDS, a TV channel owned by Ivanishvili’s family, have been actively hired by the Public Broadcaster both on a high managerial position and as journalists. For years, the Public Broadcaster is said to be suffering so-called “an inflated number of staff”. However, no management team has been able or willing to solve this problem.
- Public trust of the Public Broadcaster is critically low, among others, due to the recent change of editorial policies, hiring decisions and non-transparent competitions;
- Under the new management, more questions exist regarding the growing influence on the Public Broadcaster of the government and persons affiliated with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the former Prime Minister of Georgia;
- Certain programs of the Public Broadcaster have been suspended for a period of time and some of them are not on the air even up till today. This may be in violation of the law which obligates the Broadcaster to follow the programming priorities set out by the Board of Trustees of the Broadcaster. The noted priorities provide for airing journalistic investigation, cultural and educational programs.
- Supervision of the implementation of the programming priorities is the obligation of the Board of Trustees. However, the Board does not take appropriate measures for the implementation as well as other controversial reforms at the Public Broadcaster.
- The Georgian Parliament should organize a public discussion about the processes at the Public Broadcaster assessing whether the Broadcaster fully complies with the requirements of the law;
- The management and the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster should take effective steps in order to deserve public trust which would entail: ensuring transparency, informing the public about the processes at the Public Broadcaster, being accountable to the public, and implementing an objective, impartial and pluralistic editorial policy;
- The Board of Trustees should take appropriate measures to address the non-compliance of the programming priorities by the Public Broadcaster;
- It is important to finalize the process of reorganization and staff reshuffling in order to ensure an effective and transparent performance by the Public Broadcaster;
- The Georgian Parliament should not adopt the amendments to the Law on Public Broadcaster which will significantly weaken the transparency of the Public Broadcaster, will raise the risk of corruption and harm the advertising market.