GEO

Who owns Georgia’s media: Power networks and corporate relationships behind Georgian media outlets

16 April, 2014

Tbilisi, April 16, 2013 - Transparency International Georgia releases new report - Who Owns Georgia’s Media? which looks at the ownership of Georgia’s media outlets that have national coverage or reach large segments of the population, analyzes the background of shareholders and tries to shed light on their other business activities.

This report seeks to contribute to a better understanding of power networks and corporate relationships around major Georgian media outlets, because the audience should be able to understand who owns the media and which other businesses are linked to a particular outlet. Having this understanding is an important aspect of media literacy, allowing viewers, readers and listeners to better detect and understand any bias a media outlet might transport – not only any political or ideological spin but also corporate interests that may be reflected and promoted by a specific media company. 

Key findings of the report

  • The report looks at the ownership of more than 20 broadcasting, print and online media outlets. The ownership of Georgian media outlets is now largely transparent.

  • The owners of several media outlets have or had some links with either the ruling Georgian Dream coalition or the current opposition United National Movement. However much has improved over the past years, in the areas of, both, ownership transparency and political control over the media, compared with pre-2011 situation (in 2011 offshore companies were banned from owning broadcasting licenses), when some of the country’s most influential media outlets were closely linked with the government or other political groups and controlled through opaque shell entities.

  • There are several large businessmen who own media outlets in Georgia:

- Levan Karamanishvili, one of the owners of Rustavi 2 owns shares in mobile operator Beeline through offshore entities. He is also linked to the ownership of internet provider Caucasus Online.
- Patarkatsishvili family, who own Imedi TV hold several assets in Georgia, including mobile operator Magticom, Borjomi mineral water and Mtatsminda amusement park. Family has a court dispute with Joseph Kay regarding Rustavi steel factory.
- Former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose son Bera owns an entertaining station GDS, controls number of offshore companies through his relatives.
- Kakha Okruashvili, who recently got his broadcasting license back is the founder of Omega Group. Omega Group includes cigarette production and distribution companies and dealership of BMW.
- Kakha Bendukidze, one of Tabula’s owners and Vasil Kobaidze, owner of majority of shares in Pirveli Stereo are also active in other business sectors.

  • Only one exception remains, where shareholders continue to hide their involvement behind offshore shell company. According to the law the owners of the broadcasting licences are banned from being registered in offshore locations.

- LTD Weekly Informative Analytical Magazine Tabula (according to Tabula website Tabula unites Tabula TV, magazine Tabula and the website) is owned by UCG Green Power (51%) which is itself owned by Panamese Rylf Management. One of the owners - the Civic Education Fund (5%), a Georgian non-profit entity, holds the terrestrial broadcasting license that Tabula TV is using.1

  • Following 2012 parliamentary elections certain media outlets went through ownership changes:

- Few days after the elections Georgian Media Production Group, a company that owns Imedi TV was returned to the family of Badri Patarkatsishvili. The company owned another broadcasting license which was used by a gambling channel Play TV. This license was returned to Iberia TV, which is owned by Zaza Okuashvili (founder of Omega group) and his wife Nato Chkheidze.
- Shares of TV 3 (former Real TV) were acquired by Head of the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kakha Baindurashvili and his deputy Lasha Chkhenkeli. The two gave up their shares after the Georgian National Communication Commission ruled baindurashvili had a conflict of interest.  
- Rustavi 2 shareholders Levan Karamanishvili and Giorgi Gegeshidze gave up their shares in TV company Mze. 90% of Mze was acquired by Zviad Amiridze, director of Pirveli Stereo.

  • Several companies own more than one media outlet, though there are no apparent risks of market concentration:

- Rustavi 2 operates an entertainment channel Comedy TV.
- TV companies Imedi and Maestro own radio stations.
- Media Holding Palitra Media owns a TV channel, a radio station and dozens of magazines, newspapers and websites.
- Radio Holding Radio Sakartvelo owns four national radio stations (Ar Daidardo, Fortuna, Fortuna + and Avtoradio). The same family owns a music channel Music Box.

TI Georgia will release a separate report which will focus on the ownership, role and financing of local media outlets, which in many cities, towns and communities across the country play an important role in communicating and shaping local discussions and events. Their role will further increase as a result of a recent local government reform which will introduce the direct election of mayors in 12 cities in the June local elections.


1 The director of the Foundation of Civic Education Tamar Chergoleishvili addressed Transparency International Georgia with a letter regarding the report findings. According to the letter, Tabula TV and Tabula Magazine represent separate legal entities and the former is the same as the Foundation of Civic Education. We would like to state that it is impossible to confirm this claim through the public registry database. The statute of the Foundation is not available in the public registry website which may have proved the above-mentioned statement. The Foundation of Civic Education, which founded Tabula magazine and owns 5% of shares at this magazine up to date, was registered in 2009. Moreover, Tabula TV and Tabula Magazine have the same address, website, phone number, email and are both managed by Tamar Chergoleishvili. This is why we consider Tabula as a media holding consisting of Tabula TV, Tabula Magazine and the website (just as mentioned in our report), which Tabula itself claims to be on its website.

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.

 

 

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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.

 

GMedia, Media