26 July Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development presented business-model of digitalization to the Council for Switchover to Digital Broadcasting. According to the model developed by the Ministry, State will own one multiplex which will circulate public broadcaster and second multiplex will be handed over to consortium formed by national and regional broadcasters; remaining 5 multiplexes will be given to private investor based on tender.
Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Developent Dimitri Kumsishvili stated that in the multiplex that will be handed over to private investor part of channels will be circulated in Free to air regime and part will be charged (Pay TV.) Private investor will also be obliged to purchase set top box digital broadcasting receivers for socially vulnerable population (up to 500,000 people), which according to Dimitri Kumsishvili, will cost up to EURO 15-18 million.
“Decisive in the competition will be which company will subsidize socially vulnerable population more,” Kumsishvili stressed. According to him, negotiations are underway with several large companies. Tender winning Company will have the liability to construct the network before 31 December 2015. The network will be single frequency. Currently operating must carry and must offer obligations will continue after switchover to digital broadcasting.
According to Dimitri Kumsishvili, for the moment Georgia has resources enough for 2 multiplexes. After tender winner will be announced they will include national and regional broadcasters operating today in the multiplex constructed by private investor. Vacant frequencies will be used up by the consortium of broadcasters during 2015-2017.
Ministry of Economy stated that agreement has been achieved with Azerbaijan side that instead of 5 channels existing in Tbilisi zone it will be possible to let through 15 channels.
According to Dimitri Kumsishvili, provisions of the presented model are 90% approved and minor changes will be made only in case if broadcasters will not agree to them principally.
Members of the Council had most of the questions on technical issues and according to the Deputy Minister, the given details will be discussed during forthcoming meetings.
Kavkasia TV Director Nino Jangirashvili asked the Ministry to specify issues more.
“There are no specific solutions, specific figures in order for me to estimate what amount I will need; in order to raise the funds. We need to know these details now in order to not be in problematic situation,” she said. Dimitri Kumsishvili advised TV-Companies to form the consortium and to agree on unified positions in the immediate future.
According to Kumsishvili, 29 July foreign experts are to arrive in Georgia and they will together with the Ministry of Justice work on legislative regulations related to digital broadcasting. After the Council members will agree on the business-model, work on technical part will be completed and the day for multiplex operator tender will be scheduled.
Georgia broadcasts in analogue format now and switchover to digital broadcasting is an international obligation. ITU set 17 June 2015 as the deadline for switchover to digital broadcasting for European countries. Georgia took the given obligation together with other countries in 2006 and signed the Geneva Agreement.
Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development has been ordered to manage the given process. Majority of European countries have already switched over to digital broadcasting.