The authors of the legislative initiative and concerned parties congregated on January 10 at the National Library in order to examine the issues of transparency of the Public Broadcaster’s financial activities, as well as the liability enhancement of the broadcaster’s Board of Trustees and granting the status of public broadcaster to Adjara TV. The meeting was held under the initiative of Media Advocacy Coalition.
The rule of staffing of the Board of Trustees has entailed strenuous and most time-consuming debates.
According to the bill, the number of members of the Public Broadcaster’s Board of Trustees must be reduced from 15 to 9, and the majority of the parliament with the quota of minority will select 6 members by majority vote, the rest 2 will be named by the Public Defender. The ninth candidate automatically becomes the representative of Adjara TV. In compliance with the amendment, the parliamentarian majority shall uphold members of the board.
Some of the participants of the debates didn’t agree with the reasoning that candidates for the board are supposed to be elected in accordance with the quotas of political groups. They believe that the circumstance will increase the influence of the politicians over the Public Broadcaster. As the authors of the bill have reported, the board won’t be fully protected from the political influence as the Parliament elects it. According to their viewpoint, the members appointed by the Public Defender will secure the Board’s independence.
Ketevan Sadgobelashvili of the Public Broadcaster, having participated in the meeting, remarked that in case of board staffing, the persons selected shouldn’t be politically accountable to any of the parties.
The selection criteria of the board members has as well sparkled the debate. Several participants of the discussion said that there must be adequate definition of requirements the board members are supposed to meet. According to them the criteria being current applied is exaggerated and needs more elaborated definition.
“A nominee must have wide public trust, hold master’s degree and at least 10 years work experience, including no less than 5 years in the field of journalism, human rights, finance or/and scientific-pedagogy,”-reads the bill.
Moreover, the function of nominating candidates, previously carried out by the president, must be entirely handed over to the Parliament. According to one of the authors of the bill and the Editor of the Rezonansi (the Resonance) newspaper Lasha Tugushi, the parliamentary commission must be established under the initiative of the Head of the Parliament, which will include the media representatives to elect the Public Broadcaster’s Board of Trustees. The authors of the bill haven’t, however, yet defined the exact criteria for selecting the board members.
The issue of imposing liability for the processes going on at the Public Broadcaster has as well been addressed.
Ketevan Sadgobelashvili has raised the issue. “From 2004 up to the moment, none of the directors of the Public Broadcaster has been in office throughout the whole term. Should the liability over the processes going on in the television be only imposed upon the director, missing the board out?- she has questioned.
In response Lasha Tugushi said that according to “the Bill proposed by Media Advocacy Coalition the Board of Trustees will be responsible for the fulfillment of the priorities they set and for inappropriate handling of the budget as well. The parliament has the right to raise the issue of the Board’s liability once a year.
The issues of financial transparency of the Public Broadcaster, as well as reformation of Adjarian TV-Radio department into the fourth public broadcaster were also touched upon during the discussion.
“Some believe that the information regarding the total amount of expenditures and incomes of the broadcaster must be available to the society, whereas some believe that the information of exact salaries assigned for the concrete offices must be open to the people, without disclosing the name of a receiver though. The issue is subject to further refinement,”- Tugushi stated.
The executive authority of Georgia has already forwarded the bill for examination. After the additional amendments are defined, the initiators of the bill will then again apply to the parliament and sent it in the form of corrections or remarks.
On January 10, Media Coalition held debates addressing the same issues inBatumi. The meeting was mostly dedicated to the issue of the status of Adjara TV-Company. As suggested by the bill, Adjara TV and Radio is meant to be launched, in the capacity of a broadcaster, on the fourth frequency of Georgian Public Broadcaster. It is supposed to be financed by no less than 15% of the Public Broadcaster’s joint budget.