Public Broadcaster Should Take Middle Position

Interview with Giorgi Khutsishvili, Director of International Center for Conflicts and Negotiations

The problems and processes in Georgian media after the Parliamentary Elections aroused interest of Georgian and International society. Changes in media raise questions and critical remarks. Resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of European Council intensified these tensions. About state of Georgian media and its center point for this very moment GPB Georgian Journal talked with Giorgi Khutsishvili, expert and director of International Center for Conflicts and Negotiations.

Q. There were some changes in Georgian media after the Parliamentary Elections. Were these changes were politically motivated?

A. The question of media became especially important when the coalition of NGO-s begun to work on the principles of Must Carry Must Offer, according to which every cable TV had to incorporate in its package every TV channel in spite of its political views. Georgian parliament satisfied this request. But this decision lasted only for the period prior to the elections and it became void after the elections. International society responded very positively to the decision of Georgian parliament; every American and European publication was talking about the positive influence of the bill of the parliament. After the elections the situation changed because so called oppositional TV channels stopped being oppositional and they became supporters of the government and Georgian Dream. So they were not under danger of losing the permit of TV broadcasting. But question of regulation of media space became the priority to be adjusted to the European standards.

Q. How do you estimate changes in GPB and how do you see ideal Public Broadcaster? A. GPB should fulfill its function. It means that when we talk about the TV companies that air the political views of different political parties, the Broadcaster should stand separately. Talking about such TV compnaies as Rustavi 2 and Imedi, which were promoting political views of National Movement and former government, PBG is in one line together with them. It’s not right. The duty of Pubic Broadcaster is to stand in the middle of providing the information that is based on ideas and views of public, not of a concrete political party. And its budget is formed exactly for this. That’s why logically there arose the request for changes. The fact that Chanturia left the position was motivated by these facts. Changing of board was impossible because it has its own terms of functioning, so the person who is most responsible for the process in the Broadcaster, is its director. So this change was logical. New person who was appointed was supposed to change the policy of the GPB but he did not. When we compare TV companies like Rustavi2 and Public Broadcaster on the one hand, and Channel 9 and Maestro on the other hand, we see the difference in the time that is given to the supporters or the members of National Movement, and in choosing the experts. It is evident that television is still politically motivated. That is not right. Public Broadcaster gives the public doubts that it supports a concrete party and that is wrong.

Q. Will the board of Public Broadcaster become politicized if the parliament passes the bill on GPB that determines how to choose the members of the board? A. I made statement about the system of choosing the members of the board. The quota system that prescribes to appoint members by political parties should be changed. Candidates should be chosen by the society not political parties, because it will influence the editorial policy of television. But we live in a very intense political situation and when the powerful agent of influence like the Broadcaster, takes side of a certain political party, it’s very difficult to keep cool and neutral. We have to take into account that the new government has the following attitude: we received the mandate of the majority of our people; accordingly, we are expressing the views of the majority of the society. Quota system linked to the political parties is a negative process and I don’t agree with.

Q. What do you think about possible financial inspection of the Public Broadcasting? A. TV company PIC stopped its broadcasting because they found financial violations at the Broadcaster and PIC couldn’t be financed any longer. 400 employees of the TV company lost their jobs in one day. In GPB was carried out a financial inspection to find the reason of financial crisis. I think, there were found serious financial violations. But this process shouldn’t technically interrupt the working process of the television or cause stress to its employees to affect their working abilities negatively. The European Council reacted to this fact and criticized it. But I must say that the change of government evokes whole lot of legal processes that are impossible to stop. And one of the directions of these processes concerns GPB. It is motivated by the fact that GPB was under the influence of National Movement. It is one of the reasons; however, this is not a single case. We know that every year the Public Broadcaster spends huge sums from the budget, senior staff of television have big salaries. Meanwhile, the budget is not spent on the building of the Broadcaster which is in poor condition.

Q. What do you think about the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of European Council regarding GPB?

A. European council, European Parliament and Euro Commission have either incomplete information or in many case the information is interpreted subjectively. I think that talking about Rustavi 2 as about independent TV company means that they don’t know the heart of the matter. That’s why I think that the statement in that resolution is unproved and unfounded.

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