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10.01.2013 21:24

Draft Law Prepared by Media Coalition Discussed in Batumi

Meri Emiridze. Batumi
Media Discusions
დისკუსია ბათუმში (photo: )

“Public broadcasting space is unified in all democratic countries,” this was the justification of the reformation of the Adjara TV-Radio Department into not regional public broadcaster, but fourth channel of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, made by media expert Zviad Koridze.  At 9 January meeting held in Batumi, in the Democratic Involvement Center, members of the Coalition for Media Advocacy presented the draft law prepared by them, which provides for amendments to the Law on Broadcasting and definition of the status of Adjara TV-Radio Department. 

According to the draft law, Adjara TV and Radio Department will air at Adjara Public Broadcaster at the fourth frequency of the Georgian Public Broadcaster.  It will be financed from the budget of the GPB with minimum of 15% of the total budget.  Zviad Koridze believes that only with such kind of financing it will be possible to have editorial independence of the channel. 

“For a public broadcaster most important is editorial independence.  It is threatened by two things – one is direct political censorship and second is indirect political censorship with economic levers, which can always be used by government if it directly funds a television.  And when government pays you money it by all means orders you music,” Koridze said. 

At the meeting which was attended by representatives of government,, NGOs, media and civil sector, several critical remarks have been made on the part of the draft law which covers issue of the TV-Radio Department status, financing and property management. 

According to Adjara TV-Radio Department Head of Staff David Putkaradze, the draft law must by all means define who will manage the 270million property of the TV-Radio Department.  Koridze stated that neither during working on the draft law, nor during discussions held, no questions have arisen on the issue of the property of Adjara TV property. 

“Still, as long as the given issue has been brought up at this discussion, we believe it necessary for additional regulation to put in the legislation a norm according to which the inventory of the property of the current governmental department hold will be conducted and will be determined what and how will be left with Adjara broadcaster.  We will add coinciding clarifications to the draft law,” Koridze said. 

The draft law which has been worked out by Rezonansi newspaper Chief Editor Lasha Tugushi, media expert Zviad Koridze and Executive Director of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, lawyer Tamar Kordzaia, was submitted to Parliament 26 December. 

“Management body of the channel will be formed locally, in Batumi, which means that Supreme Council will elect the Board.  After this the Board of Trustees will appoint a Director; this means Director is not appointed by Tbilisi.  They will have their own budget; local Board will set program priorities, meaning that content will fully be dependent on the Board of Trustees elected by the Supreme Council.  Content, finances and salaries will be decided upon locally – management will be fully local,” Lasha Tugushi satated. 

Head of NGO Institute of Democracy Geno Geladze does not agree to the idea of reforming the TV-Radio Department into the fourth channel of the Public Broadcaster.  According to him, decisions on the issues of status, financing and functioning of the TV-Radio Department must be the authority of the Adjara Supreme Council; otherwise the existence of the TV-Radio Department may be in danger. 

“For me, appointment of just Board members by the Adjara Supreme Council does not mean anything.  In this case this local Board does not decide anything.  They do not have independent revenues; are not able to increase financing and must work only within the limits of 15%,” Geladze said. 

Vice Speaker of Georgian Parliament Murman Dumbadze does not see the perspectives of the draft law.  He is the author of the alternative draft law on the reformation of Adjara TV into public broadcaster.  At the discussion he said that by current situation the issue of the property of the television is not cleared, so the given draft law cannot be implemented. 

“All twenty one MPs of the Supreme Council agree that amendments must be made to the Law on Broadcasting and Adjara Regional Broadcaster must be created.  It will be funded by Adjara Supreme Council, specifically taxpayers and Adjara TV will be accountable to taxpayers,” Dumbadze said. 

Authors of the draft law believe that Adjara TV-Radio Department will be higher if Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Adjara Broadcaster will be member of the Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster.  Several members of the discussion expressed concern that in that case the GBP Board of Trustees will have a possibility to interfere with editorial independence of Adjara TV.  In response Lasha Tugushi clarified that status of Adjara TV will be higher as it will have its own representative in the Public Broadcaster and will be able to bring region problems to the GPB. 

Discussion of the draft law continued for two hours.  The discussion will continue in Tbilisi 19 January.  Authors state that they plan to consider several rational opinions expressed during the discussion, in the draft law.  Such issues include the issue of Adjara TV-Radio Department property management. 

Member of Adjara Supreme Council Gia Masalkin believes that just holding discussions on the status of the TV-Radio Department looks look walking in a closed circle and if it will not be defined timely, in August, when presenting the new budget, it will appear that the issue of the television is still unsolved.  “There will be no more compromise,” he stated in relation to approval of temporary budget of the TV-Radio Department. 



Media Advocacy Coalition Presents New Draft Bill to Parliament







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