TBILISI, DFWatch – According to a new survey, both the government and the opposition in Georgia are trying to control the media.
The authors of the report, Transparency International Georgia’s (TI), think that the government and the opposition are trying to have an influence on some TV stations and intermediary companies.
The survey Analysis of Georgian TV Broadcasting mentions that people in Georgia identify television channels with either the government or the opposition.
Three channels – Rustavi 2, Imedi and Channel 1 — are considered to be pro-government. Until the must-carry and must-offer principles came into force, those were the only channels covering the whole country, while independent TV Maestro, Channel 9 and Kavkazia had problems to reach beyond the capital. As for the local channels in the regions, they permanently face problems dealing with local cable operator companies.
The main source of information is television in the regions, because mostly they don’t have Internet.
Natia Kuprashvili, chair of National Broadcasters Association, said that the implementation of must-carry in the regions is still ongoing, but there are technical problems.
The technical problems have been overcome in Telavi and Gurjaani, however, but broadcasters still are not on air, said Kuprashvili, and added that there are problems in western Georgia too.
Mamuka Andghuladze, one of the authors of the survey, thinks that one of the most important issues is the introduction of must-carry and must-offer. He said that this improved the situation in the media and calls on the National Communications Commission to leave these regulations in force after they expire on election day.
Must carry and must offer are principles which oblige cable operator companies to carry the signal of all broadcasters having a proper license, while broadcasters don’t have a right to withhold their signal from cable companies’ networks. But the government only agreed to implement this regulation for a certain period – 60 days before elections – after which it will expire.
The survey also reviews cases of violations: the robbery of an investigative journalism studio, Monitor, the fining of a video equipment company, Videoscop, which provided services for the opposition channel TV 9 and the opposition party Georgian Dream, the seizure of the opposition TV company Maestro’s satellite dishes, the harassment of journalists with the opposition Channel 9.
TI drew attention to the importance of financial transparency in the business of TV companies. Mamuka Andghuladze said it is unknown how many political commercials are aired on the channel Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV.
TI asks these channels to provide financial data on their websites. This is one of the recommendations which TI attached to the survey. Another important recommendation is to investigate all cases of violation the rights of companies and journalists.