20 December Board of Trustee of the Publc Broadcaster shortlisted 5 candidates for the second round of competition for the vacancy of the GPB Director General’s position. Member of the Board of Trustee, media researcher Nino Danelia also participated in the session via Skype. She is currently in the USA.
How adequate the process of selection of candidates was; have any worthy candidates been left out of the second round; how transparent the Board of Trustees and process of selecting Director of the GPB is – Nino Danelia answered these and other questions from media.ge in written form.
How did the process of selecting the GPB Director go? How jointly did the members of the Board work and what the main criteria of selection?
There was no process at all. Trustees refused to satisfy public interest and to discuss candidates transparently. Naturally discussion of 143 candidates was impossible and not necessary. It is not hard to select candidates for second round from 143 individuals. I proposed the Board members to discuss only shortlisted candidates, to say who and why thinks their favorite is a strong candidate; to discuss them and conduct a healthy process. This happens this way in all the commissions I have been a member of: commission members discuss and after discussion they make decision, but of course individually and secretly, but after discussion, exchange of arguments and after dispute. Secrecy is expressed by the fact that finally nobody knows about the final decision of a member of Board. I heard such an answer to my proposition: You think I have time to discuss everyone’s candidate separately? Voting is secret, so I will not discuss; I have made final decision and will not change it after any dispute; I do not want to hurt the friends that I will not vote for; I do not want to openly announce my candidates and so on.
You would probably agree that these are extremely unserious arguments. Meanwhile, when the Chairman listed all the candidates with at least one vote there were only 12 of them. What time would it have taken to discuss one-page CVs of 12 candidates? Was not that time worth spending for conducting democratic and transparent process? Wouldn’t it be worthy for the Trustees to show that they feel accountable to the society? Of course it was worth it! Furthermore that I made a compromise and proposed them to turn off video-cameras if they did not want publicity, but to discuss candidates with responsibility and to approach the process professionally. To the given proposal Board member David Kandelaki, who is in the Board from Gia Tortladze’s quota, told me that he does not believe me and that I have added some individual to the Skype conference and that that person was listening to our discussion. I do not know who I could have added to the conference; somebody from the Primer’s staff, MIA, Prosecutor’s Office… Anyway, I heard such an outraging slander and insult. Here I must also stress that session of the GPB Board of Trustees is not a closed session; according to Georgian legislation anyone interested can attend a session, so it is just nonsense to have it closed; such thing may happen only in an unhealthy environment.
Did you vote for all 5 shortlisted candidates and if you did not support anyone, why?
No. I did not vote for three from these five. I have no reason to doubt their managerial abilities and knowledge, but media and furthermore a public broadcaster is not a regular business-company. It has special functional responsibility to the society and if you do not know these values, whatever good you are at planning cultural events for Events Masters and in putting together crisis budget for Dexus (Tinatin Rukhadze), at developing and managing electronic data archives and electronic management systems (Megi Tavdumadze), at human resource management; I believe you cannot be a good director of a public broadcaster. I was ready though to listen to my colleagues and to discuss and I really could have changed my opinion in favor of these persons if I would see I was wrong during the discussion.
Which candidate is acceptable for you and why?
I selected six candidates who as I thought would be interesting for me and Georgian society to listen to – David Kartvelishvili, Natia Abramia, Levan Girsiashvili, Kote Chlaidze, Irakli Tabliashvili and Giorgi Baratashvili. They all have their strong sides: someone has experience in working for leading western media and as result acts according to high media standards; someone has experience in working for media content producing organization; someone has skills in technical side of television. It is also important that according to their CVs, there is nothing compromising in their professional past. I know three of them personally and three I have not met. It would have been interesting for me to discuss these three and I even asked the Board to at least discuss my candidates. I have nothing to hide and will not hurt my friends either, as everyone who knows me know that I have never made any decision based on friendship and that the main principle for me is professionalism and not acquaintance. It is easy to check this; I am member of commission of GIPA (Georgian Institute of Public Affairs) every year and have been commission member selecting media-projects.
Which candidate has better chances considering the members of the Board?
Information leaked from Board members that they would promote Baratashvili’s candidature and they thought of such scheme: they would reject three candidates due to lack of experience in media-management; one candidate would be rejected due to lack of adequate management experience and only Baratashvili would be left; Gia Chanturia’s deputy, internal staff member with management experience and knowledge about this television. The given information came out from the Board. Of course they say that this is what Gakheladze wants and they all forget their personal responsibility in the process. We will see what happens. I hope I’m wrong and the result will not be decided upon before the end of process.
How adequate is it that interviews with candidates have been appointed for next day? Did you discuss this with other members of the Board?
(Board must have considered that candidates need to prepare for interview. They do not even have concepts ready.)
Nobody asks them for concepts. That is the problem. I am sure some members of the Board will not even have a pen and notebook to take notes during interviews with candidates. They do not need that. They already know who they need to vote for. It is hard to imagine but on such an important position, with such distrust to the Board these people do not request written concept from candidates on the development of broadcaster, they do not discuss and do not dispute; they make decisions directly based on verbal interview with candidates. If you know any example of such unprofessional and unserious approach you can given an example to readers; for me this is unimaginable.
Starting from GIPA entrance exams and ending with different funds, all commissions dispute, argue for their candidates, or projects; there are pros and cons and there is a process. Here it is an ideal situation; it is unimaginable for me; I’ve never had such an experience anywhere.
We read your comments to Giorgi Meladze’s status in Facebook. You wrote there was an attempt to interfere with your work during the Board session. If this really happened, could you please give us more details?
I was not online with them during the whole session. At certain moment they told me there were to adopt some kind of financial document related to the debt that I would not be interested in. Because of this they would turn my conference off and would put me back on line when they started discussing candidates again. I said I was interested in the financial document also and as far as I attended the Board session I could see no problem in full participation in it. One of the Board members announced Bakur Sulakauri (Board member) has not seen all the CVs and that he had to read them through. They “turned me off” with a motive that Sulakauri was to read the CVs on the monitor that I was online from by Skype. Just to remind, there is a desktop PC in the working room of the Board and the laptop that I was online from was not the only computer in the room. There is a computer also in the secretary’s room and in Chairman’s office. This means the member of the Board could read through the biographies of candidates in a calm atmosphere. Anyway, this reason, or that, they turned me off and put me back online long time later. It is a fact that they did not discuss financial documents together with me. I was quite nervous already after Kandelaki’s slanderous accusation and did not protest any more when they started listing candidates on the whiteboard.
You demand for interviews with candidates to be broadcasted live; what do your colleagues think about it? Are there any discussions on the given issue?
No, they didn’t agree to me. They did not agree to discuss shortlisted candidates; do you think they would agree to live broadcasting?! While, we would all see which candidate knows what, what are their views and what questions Board members ask.
I’d like to remind you that Chanturia’s competitor was Zviad Koridze. If these candidates would have debated live on TV Zviad Koridze would have had complete advantage. But in this case they would have problems with justifying Chanturia’s candidature.
Process transparency is important because the given television has special functional responsibility to the society. Society demands the most unbiased and professional answers to questions; it cannot be a biased television; it must serve public interests. We are all accountable and we must be able to justify to the society why we make certain decisions.
Certain persons from media sphere demand postponement of the GPB Director selection process until new legislation is approved and until new board is elected. Do you agree with them? Do you think the current Board will not choose a worthy candidate?
I did not agree with hose demanding postponement until today. I had hopes until the end that the Board would realize that if we conducted incorrect process and if we would choose a Director with professional reputation, Parliament would dismiss the Board and I personally do not have guarantee that the Board and Director will be from the Georgian Dream candidates and this television will again be controlled by government.
It is important to create public broadcaster free from political influence and not to take it from one political camp to another. Now I doubt that the Board, which is afraid to dispute, which conceals choices due to fear of losing friendship, which does not have time to discuss candidates, will be able to make adequate decision. I understand I should not be talking about the collective board like this and there are 10 members there, but today those 10 members were collectively against public, transparent discussion. None of them said that adding someone to Skype conference in order to listen to the session would not be a problem as whatever radically immoral person I could be, the sessions of the Board must be open and right for confirming this transparency the sessions are being recorded.
Despite that, 20 December camera was turned off and back how many times I cannot say; I did not count. This means you are only able to see cut-edited versions of sessions and not the recording of whole sessions. This is why I think it is an absurd to claim transparency of these processes.