The Civic Education Foundation has got three more months to arrange the programming for the new TV company to be launched. The Foundation procured private broadcasting licenses №B21, №B91 and №B99 from TV company Saqartvelo. On October 12 the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) gave consent for issuing a license to the Foundation with three votes against one. The Civic Education Foundation is not the first asset in media. The foundation is the publisher of the Tabula.
To enquire about the type of the television the Civic Education Foundation is going to launch, who is going to be employed at the new TV company from the previous government, whether the Tabula is going to be closed down and what the future plans are Media.ge obtained an interview from Tamar Chergoleishvili, Editor of the Tabula magazine, Director and founder of the Civic Education Foundation.
Ms Tamar, the Civic Education Foundation is going to launch a television, why did you, as a founder and director of the Foundation, came to this decision and how did to reach consensus with the Saqartvelo TV management?
Having broken off co-operation with Rustavi 2 we have been desiring to set up the Tabula studio to produce political and youth talk shows, and music produce of various type to be ultimately offered to different TVs. We had an idea but then some other possibilities popped up – the owner of the TV company Saqartvelo got interested to sell the license, and we did accept this possibility.
Were other TV companies considered too?
We were thinking of offering our produce to other companies such as Rustavi or Imedi. We wanted to have a possibility to expand. We wanted to offer viewers high-grade debates. Some might have agreed to our editorial line, some might not but we aimed at offering the Georgian audience dissenting opinions and quality debates instead of whatever is now being on TV air.
So ahead of the elections there were some plans of launching a television?
Yes, but of course, in the run up to election I would not have done it. But we were mainly thinking of a studio, now, through the license procured from TV company Saqartvelo we’ll be broadcasting in the urban centers including Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Gori, Sachkhere and Senaki.
Your talks with Saqartvelo was just a free deal between two private parties or you paid certain amount to procure the license?
We paid the market price for three licenses. Some of the media outlet reported we had been handed the license over for free. It’s not like that. Let’s say the amount we paid is a commercial secret. We did purchase the license.
As regards the GNCC’s role in this case its only mission was to identify the legality of holding the broadcasting license by our Foundation, this is to say, whether we are registered in the offshore zone and meet the requirements of the law. One of the Commission members said we had no right to obtain this license since TV company Saqartvelo failed to fulfill the legal obligation. I could not understand his argument – if Saqartvelo failed to fulfill the obligation then he, as a member of the Commission, was authorized to take some measures – issue a warning. Our Foundation is not a legal successor of the TV company Saqartvelo We just purchased certain assets, licenses.
Are the licenses, you have obtained from Saqartvelo, in arrears?
Yes, we have got GEL 45,000 to pay to the budget. We are going to follow the specially drawn up payment schedule
As regards technical equipments, did you get anything from Saqartvelo? Today (October 23) TV company Real TV owner Lali Egadze said the TV company Saqartvelo took away some technical equipments, including the remote control, from Real TV.
I have got no idea about it. I am not the owner of Saqartvelo TV and I have got nothing in common with its liabilities, property or actions.
I might purchase technical equipments from Saqartvelo, like from other TV companies. I am truly going to purchase transmitting equipments from Saqartvelo, since our frequency is suitable for those transmitters.
As for the rest of the equipments, how does your technical base look?
Now we are making a list of the equipments we might need. We’ll seek for whatever is available in market, and what we can purchase from other channels, and what we need to import. We have got some technical equipments at the Tabula office, like editing computers, for instance. We need to review this issue well.
Now I am rushing to Dudu Kurdghelia who is well aware of technical issues. Over the rest of the issues I am conducting consultations with other experienced individuals. The day before yesterday, for instance, I had a meeting with Nika Tabatadze. I have never done this work and I should ask around among the people with some experience.
Are these individuals conducting only consultations?
Yes, their opinion is important to me, in terms of arranging the programming as well as the qualification and amount of staff.
What will be the name of the TV company?
We are thinking about several options. We have not decided yet. We are considering the signage too. Budget is the matter of concern, rather than the name and anything else. Having Kakha Bendukidze as one of the funders it’s especially important to m to have a good planning. Kakha is the person one should ask for every singe penny in a well argumented way. Therefore, every evening we get together to discuss, argue, it’s a very pleasant process.
What is going to be the direction of the TV company? Have you already got a draft? What niche are you going to occupy?
It will be a small-budget news/teaching channel. Kakha and I think a successful project should be financially sustainable. No one is going to invest millions here. Under the circumstances the cheapest is to talk live. I think that’s what the TV space lacks most, and especially inviting the people that can offer viewers quality discussion. We have many of this kind around us. The government has changed, we have got a new government and the people absorbed by the previous government from civil sector, are now free. They can speak independently, not on behalf of the government. Hence, we are going to produce many talk shows.
We liked The Five, American talk show on Fox News Channel. Five permanent hosts discuss over the current developments. Instead of permanent hosts we would like to get up to 30 interested to take part in the program in turns. There are 15 of us in the Foundation. To my mind Keti Devdariani and I can offer very good debates on gender issues and freedom of speech. Over the issue we have different opinions. Let’s say Kakha Bendukidze and Giga Zedania might have a quality debate over social issues. Even though the Foundation members agree on the main values we have different positions over certain issues.
According to one of the stereotypes if you talk over some serious topics in a qualified manner, you are boring and no one is watching you. Kakha Bendukidze is qualified and speaks about serious topics and the programs, he is taking part in, always enjoy high rating.
From government members who agreed to negotiations, who might we see at your TV company?
Oto Kakhidze, Andro Gigauri, Tamuna Kovziridze, Vato Lezhava, Eka Zghuladze – they are our like-minded friends. If earlier they were limited into some frames, for representing executive authority, they are free now. Some of them will be working at Free University. When speaking about the policy to get closer to Europe only few will be able to talk over the issue better than Tamuna Kovziridze, since the process has been on with her direct participation. Anyone, but Sergo Kapanadze, would find it hard to evaluate Geneva talks since he had been the participant of the process.
What other programs are you thinking of?
At the very beginning we are going to have a news program since we are obliged to according to the license. At the initial stage we might be content with the Euronews format – 10-minute news per hour. The main news program will be including debates too. We are thinking of candid camera. We might have a project to verify whether the policeman is taking bribes, what is going on at the customs and the like. Earlier Free Institute used to run the project of the kind and I did like it a lot.
Are you going have the new government under control?
No, not only new government. We also would like to analyze the mistake the previous government made, the reason the United National Movement lost the elections. If UNM wants to feel catharsis, citing President, then first of all it should comprehend the mistakes made and not to avoid talking about it out loud.
Moreover, we would like to make youth talk show. Something like Wall, to discuss the topics of youth concern.
You can make a niche magazine that can gain success and attract ads but the television should be targeted at many groups since different viewers are watching the channel throughout a day. Morning air has got its viewers, the ones rushing to work. Afternoon air is mainly watched by housewives. But I still think our viewers will include the ones with higher education who thus far have had no possibility to watch anything desirable on TV space and we are going to offer them this chance. I don’t know yet how we are going to manage that but we wish to do whatever is strictly different from whatever we have got now.
Is the magazine and website going to further operation?
Now we are thinking what to do. The magazine has got its own independent funding and this funds are not under any threat thus far. This money is in place, hence it is to decide how to utilize this money in an efficient manner, is it worth to print 20,000 copies of the magazine in Turkey and spend money on shipping if we can have reach hundred of thousands of people? Or spend the money and energy on the development of the TV channel? We are weighing this issue now and we are going to release a statement over the future of the Tabula. The Tabula will anyway remain as a separate organism, but of the form you will be notified.
So the print edition might be closed down?
We are thinking about it. We want to make the web very active. We wish to attract the viewers, the young ones, the TV space has lost. We want to make a compressed version of talk shows to be spread around internet like virus. Gia Nodia, posting a comment, will be invited to the studio to thoroughly talk over the issue.
Many media editions have encountered financial problems in the aftermath of elections. Aren’t you facing a similar problem?
Thus far we haven’t faced financial problems. The lack of funds is not the matter with our speculation over the maintenance of print edition. The utilization of the financial resources in a right way is the case, and especially when it comes to television. Our energy is a matter of concern too. We are to arrange a television within three months. Publication of the magazine along with that requires immense energy. We are always care a lot about the quality of our produce.
The advertising revenue has not decreased - our customers placed ads not because I am Giga Bokeria’s wife but for raising the issues favorable to business – press regulation, lower taxes and so on. Business used to be the Tabula’s inherent ally. But no one would reprimand Mamuka Khazaradze for not placing ads in the Tabula. Moreover, we used to run very well arranged marketing, we knew the way to explain the businesses we were protecting their interests.
How are you going to split the staff?
Since we are going to maintain the Tabula website, we’ll have to somehow split human resources. Some will be working for the television and web, accordingly paid for both.
We’ll see who will be good at TV. Levan Sutidze, for instance, might not be a good reporter but few can work on religious topics like him. It is also important to see who will be good with camera.