TBILISI, DFWatch – An opposion party in Georgia warns that a law meant to create diversity in media will lead to social turmoil after the election in October.
Levan Vepkhvadze, one of the leaders of the opposition Christian Democrats, says introducing so-called must-carry and must-offer in network television, but ending it on election day, is worse than not enforcing these rules at all.
The government of Mikheil Saakashvili gave in to pressure from a democracy campaign and subscribed to the system, but has decided to end it on election day. Campaigners wanted it to last until after the election results have been announced.
“Switching off broadcasters in the evening before election day may lead to the process coming out of control, because people may think that something is wrong and because some TV channels have been switched off, that it is done to hide something from them,” Vepkhvadze says.
He says the government should not make a decision which in the end may lead the situation to come out of control.
The Saakashvili government has agreed with the This Affects You Too campaign on all the other issues with this law.
If it works as intended, it will force cable networks to carry all television stations, and force television stations to allow all cable networks to carry them.
Three months are left until an important election, and most people get their news from television. All three national TV stations are strongly pro-government, and the few other TV media that exist are not able to get distribution outside of Tbilisi because all except one cable network side with the government.
When the rules come into force, on the day on which the date of the election is announced, cable companies have relatively short time to comply with the rules, first a 48 hour window, and another two days for a court decision.
In case of non-fulfillment there will be issued a warning, and if repeated the cable company or TV will have its license revoked for one year.
Cable operators will also be forced to carry the signal of channels which broadcast locally, but more than 20 percent of people view them. This description fits on Tbilisi-based Kavkazia, the protection of whose right to get distribution was the purpose of making this entry in the law.
The rules will be in force also in connection with the presidential election, as well as during snap elections and second round of a presidential election.