Georgian TV and radio owners revealed
Author: Lasha Gogidze
This statement was updated on 2 April, 2012.
TI Georgia has put together a list of all legal and beneficiary owners holding broadcasting licenses in Georgia. Broadcast media -- radio and television, which continues to be the main source of information and entertainment for most Georgians -- can be particularly vulnerable to editorial influence from its owners and the individuals and companies that provide a large share of the outlet’s financing. Until the end of 2011, several major TV stations in Georgia, including Rustavi 2 and Imedi, were owned by off-shore shell companies, so their official owners remained unknown. At the same time, television remains prone to political influence, with news coverage and reporting remaining politically polarized.
Therefore, ownership and financial transparency of television and radio license holders is an important tool for the public to get a better understanding of who owns and finances different broadcast media outlets.
In April 2011, Parliament passed a number of amendments to the law on broadcasting, improving the level of transparency and accountability of private broadcasting companies. Most importantly, the law banned off-shore entities from owning shares in license holders and required broadcasters to disclose their beneficiary owners and management to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC). Furthermore, broadcasters have to provide the regulator with a break-down of their sources of income.
Private broadcasters had to file their ownership declarations to the regulator by 1 January 2012. Most broadcasters complied with this requirement, and their data has been made accessible online by the GNCC.
TI Georgia has tracked how the relevant companies are complying with the new legal provisions and to what extent they have provided the required information in their ownership declaration forms.
Looking through all the ownership documents, we found that:
Of a total of 81 holders of private broadcasting licenses, as of 7 March, five of them have still not published their ownership declarations online;
The released declarations are not presented by the GNCC in a user-friendly format. The regulator publishes scanned documents which do not allow for easy comparison and analysis of the data;
13 declarations are hand-written and some are of poor quality which makes it difficult to read the content clearly;
Six declarations do not include ID numbers of their legal owners;
Four declarations do not provide full information about beneficial owners or their shares in other companies.
TI Georgia decided to make this information better visible and usable for the public and created a spreadsheet that categorizes the available data from the GNCC website into a useful machine readable format. For more details, whenever needed, we also complemented the GNCC data with the ownership data from the Georgian public registry. The combined data can now be easily analyzed and updated once there are any new changes in the management or ownership structure of private broadcasting companies listed.
You can also access this table, copy and use the data directly in Google Docs.
Update: 2 April, 2012:
On 16 March, the GNCC issued a warning statement as a form of sanction against five companies holding private broadcasting licenses in Georgia and failing to submit to the GNCC their ownership declarations in due time (by 1 January 2012). These companies are: Apkhazeti – TV, Europe Plus Tbilisi, Cortess-Gidago, Spektri, and Folk-Radio. In the statement, the GNCC obliged them to address the problem and to publish their ownership data online within five working days after the issuance of warning. All companies have complied with this requirement except Apkhazeti – TV. Based on the newly available data from the GNCC web page, please refer to the updated list below.
--- The G-MEDIA program is made possible by support from the American people through USAID. The content and opinions expressed herein are those of Transparency International Georgia and do not reflect the views of the U.S. Government, USAID or IREX.