Re-staffed news service of Adjara television started operation on August 16. Changes to the TV production were made prior to the transformation of the television into a public broadcaster. In November 2013 structural as well as conceptual changes are to come into effect. Adjara TV thus far TV titled Department of TV and Radio Broadcasting of sub-agency of Adjara Autonomous Republic will be made into Adjara Regional Public Broadcaster.
The contest aimed at selecting new staff at the news service was held in July and it entailed dissention within the region. Some of NGO representatives found it incomprehensible why the contest was held if the full reorganization of the TV company is going to start in 2014.
The TV company Chairperson Soso Sturua says the television employees 40 fulltime and 200 contractual workers. According to the law following the reorganization the announcement of the contest is mandatory for full-time employees. As for the rest Director General is to decide on the announcement of a contest anew.
“I believed TV head shall not abrogate contract with a journalist. A journalist shall be fired based on the contest or get him/her transferred to another position, unless otherwise we face the violation of free speech. I could have fired journalists at my option, legally I would have been right but I did not do that,” said Soso Sturua reporting to Media.Ge.
In general up to 270 applicants participated in the contest. Six of them were accepted to work at the news service and the same amount of employees were sacked instead. The new staff was selected by a specially assembled jury including Nino Zhizhilashvili, Vakho Sanaia and Tinatin Dvalishvili.
Contracts with recently employed workers were signed as with journalists.
“If the television exists and it produces TV prodicution, hires journalists and temporarily represents governmental department for the Parliament’s failure to timely determine its status why should we call journalists public servants,” Soso Sturua stressed.
Since the department is going to exist until November 1 the budget has been drawn up for the given period, hence contracts had been signed until November.
To some vacancies the jury failed to select applicants. Recommendations though were developed for the efficient operation of the television through the staff recruited by means of a contest.
As a result of the contest six new employees came to the news service, most of the previously hired employees still remain at the television. Even though they essentially tended to cover governmental activities the head of the news service Irina Kurua believes with the present staff it is still possible to produce high-grade news programs since ultimately everything depends on editorial policy.
“Professionalism and experience of these people is not to be wasted. The region does not enjoy the luxury of experienced personnel. The contest was held to determine whether previous staff could work in close adherence to standards. The outcome of the contest is that many of the old team still continue working got the television,” said Irina Kurua.
At Tbilisi-based bureau, she said, two journalists will be working. In Kutaisi and high-mountainous Adjara they will be employing their own correspondents.
TV journalists will be working for Adjara radio in turns. According to the primary plan radio was meant to have an independent editorial office but as a result of the contest only three employees remain at the radio. The contest commission proposed a recommendation to employ TV reporters for the radio too, that practice is very well applied at some TV-radio broadcasters.
Irina Kurua thinks the main issue is to gain TV viewers’ trust Adjara TV has not enjoyed for years.
“Nobody would be watching the channel except for some State officials whose activities were being covered. To destroy this stereotype it will take some time.
We have got to convince viewers that we are working on the matters of their concern,” said Irina Kurua who has been holding the position since December 2012. Reporting to Media.Ge she pointed out that if she had not been offered guarantees of editorial independence she would not have come to the television. “Working for the television during transitive period is a challenge to me,” she said.
Soso Sturua speaking about the guarantees of editorial independence sounds rather convincing that the relation with the government is limited to a budget-related issue.
Adjara TV budget has been reduced compared with previous years. Adjara AR government had been expecting the alteration of the status and accordingly the formation of the budget yet in April, therefore the funding was primarily apportioned for six months only and afterwards until November 1. According to Soso Sturua even though the total amounts to approximately 4 mln (funding for the past year topped 7 mln) but the money was apportioned to the channel to subsist and included expanses such as taxes, staff salaries. The launch of new projects and the channel development was out of the funding plan. Even though Soso Sturua assesses 2013 as a year of financial depression they still managed to launch 15 new projects.
According to the amendments made to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting since 2014 the Adjara TV budget to be linked to the GPB budget will be receiving 15 percent of it. If the law came into effect this year Adjara would receive GEL 5,600,000. Next year the amount to be received is the same on average. Soso Sturua thinks the sum is quite enough to launch more projects at the TV company.
November and December 2013 are supposed to be funded by GPB and additional assignation shall be made by the Ministry of Finance. Soso Sturua, he said, having met with GPB Director General and financial manager, is going to present draft Adjara TV budget in October. Thereupon GPB’s financial manager will hand over the papers to the Ministry of Finance for the final approval.
Main changes at Adjara TV are to be kickstarted in January 2014. According to the Georgian Law on Broadcasting the legal person of public law (LPPL) public broadcaster Adjara TV and Radio will be founded.
A board of advisors composed of five members will be selected by the Supreme Council of Adjara AR for six-year tenure. The functions of the Board of Advisors will be similar to those of GPB Board of Trustees. The Board will select Director General by means of a contest. Soso Sturua too is going to run for the contest. The tenure for the Director General will be three years.
Adjara TV budget is approved by public broadcaster. The Board of Advisors is also responsible for determining broadcasting priorities the new projects to be launched will be based on.