TBILISI, DFWatch — Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili claims he is ready to give his TV channel to Georgian Public Broadcaster or transform it into a public broadcaster. He will even finance it for next 20 years with no strings attached.

TV 9 was set up about ten months ago and is owned by Ekatirine Khvedelidze, wife of Ivanishvili. It is considered to be in favor of his political movement, which recently came to power.

The PM says it is not correct that his family owns a TV company and that he doesn’t need this inconvenience.

“If it is not possible to give the property of TV 9 to GPB, in this case a real public television should be set up on the basis of TV 9. I don’t want this to have made-up tales that we won’t finance GPB from the state any more,” he said, adding that it will be more ‘beautiful if Channel 1 remains the public broadcaster’, but in case of TV 9 he will provide 20 year-financing and it won’t have any relation to his family anymore.

The statement is controversial and has been met with criticism from the government’s opponents.

GPB has responded that there are several conditions to consider: that GPB by law should be free of any political and commercial influence, that although it is financed by the state, it is independent from the government and answerable not to it but to society.

The statement also says that if GPB refuses to merge with TV 9, the PM suggests setting up a new public broadcaster. This would be a direct violation of Georgian law.

The PM’s proposal may be reviewed only along different two lines: If the property of TV 9 is transferred to GPB following laws and rules of such procedures, and secondly, if the human resources of TV 9 is put in the employ of GPB. In both cases the chief director of the public broadcaster will have to review the issues.

“In any other aspect, discussion about the future of GPB will be perceived as direct or indirect pressure and legalization of ruling coalition and its leaders political desire and interests. Both cases are unacceptable,” the statement says.

TV 9 Director Kakha Bekaurion Friday stated that the majority of the channel’s employees are familiar with the future of the channel. He has personally spoken with the people responsible for the editorial policy of the channel. So the journalists, procedures and other employees have discussed this issue with him.

There are 450 people employees at TV 9, he said, adding that he hasn’t been able to speak to all of them.

Bekauri noted that the future of TV 9 isn’t yet finally decided, but those are only possible options.

This was a response to TV 9 anchor Natia Lazashvili, who said that the PM’s statement caused misunderstanding and discomfort among her fellow journalists at TV 9.

Live at 21:00 in the evening of November 22 Natia Lazashvili said legitimate question appeared why there were talks about TV 9’s great plans only before the election and why people working there should go to GPB, if they could had made a decision about going there before, refusing it due to own principles.

The same day Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the Security Council and a Saakashvili faithful, commented saying that the PM directly stated he doesn’t like the Public Broadcaster and wants to merge it with his own television channel.

“With TV 9, which used to be an arm of his political propaganda. How shocking that the Prime Minister is directly telling us about his own goals and motivation,” Bokeria said.