TBILISI, DFWatch – A regulatory body in Georgia has decided that a TV station belonging to associates of the opposition billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili must go off air.
Channel 9 was started only months ago, as a competitor to the strongly pro-government TV channels that are most Georgians’ main source of news.
The reason Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) demands that Channel 9 stops broadcasting is that the company that technically transmits its signal to viewers, Stereo+, does not have a license to relay TV signals.
Kakhi Kurashvili, head of GNCC’s judicial department, says Stereo+ only has a license to broadcast on radio frequency ,and accordingly, transmitting a TV signal is exceeded its authority.
The commission has fined Stereo+ 5000 lari for what it has already done, which is about USD 3 000. It also demanded that Stereo+ stops transitting Channel 9’s signal by 2:00p.m on Thursday, otherwise it will be switched off altogether.
Davit Zilpimiani, founder of Stereo+, does not intend to comply. He says that his company has had a license for TV transmission since 2006.
“For these 6 years my company has several times signed an agreement with other companies for various services, including TV broadcasting,” he says adding that it will also be technically impossible to comply with GNCC’s demand.
“It’s an unprecedented decision. If they want me to change the laws of physics, I can’t do this. The signal is spread unintentionally and not consciously and whatever they order me to, I can’t provide that.”
Zilpimian believes the decision is part of a political game and adds that since the day he signing an agreement with Channel 9, a cascade of disasters has come his way.
Since his company started transmitting of Channel 9, which is owned by Ivanishvili’s wife, controversy was raised between his partners in Stereo+. Among the owners are people associated with the government.
In May, Pirveli Stereo and Stereo+ LTD was seized following a court order. Zilpimian was fired, but the employees of the company still recognize him as director.
Davit Zilpimiani believes both actions are politically motivated and says he will challenge GNCC’s decision in court. But he fears that Channel 9 will still be switched off, because the commission has the rights to do this.