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Lasha Tugushi: “There Is One Pocket Which Funds TV-Channels”

14.11.2011

Mariam Khurtsidze

Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Resonance Lasha Tugushi works on the development of Georgian media. He participated in the preparation of about 11 draft-laws on media and part of them was already initiated at the parliament; another part is still being prepared. Lasha Tugushi told humanrights.ge that the packet of draft-laws cover a wide range of issues.

-Reportedly you have studied the advertisement market and found out that Company General Media controls 95% of the market. What do you think about it and who stands behind this company?

-It is difficult to assume who stands behind this company. However, it is clear that there are concrete people who control advertisement market. Even if those people do not exist, the problem is that entire resources are concentrated under one person. It hinders the democracy. It seems Imedi-TV, Rustavi 2 and Public Broadcasting get sources only from one Advertisement Company; so there is one pocket which allocates money to TV-Companies. It is negative monopolist instrument.

-What about the rest 5% of the market?

-In fact it does not make even 5 %. Those companies work for small TV-channels like Maestro and Kavkasia and they occupy only 2% of the market.

-How does similar situation impact on political process, for example during pre-election period?

-When there is no competitiveness on the media-market and the money is fleeing only in one direction (moreover, when it is political money), the political environment is created artificially and the environment suits only those who manipulates with the money.

-What do you think, how should agitation be estranged from news reporting during pre-election campaign?

-There are various solutions of the problem but we suggested the parliament new and different definition which will clearly differentiate advertisement and agitation from each other. There are paid and free advertisements during the pre-election campaign. The news must not contain hidden advertisement with certain slogans. It is agitation and if the TV-channel prepares similar news, it should also indicate that it was either advertisement or agitation. Both of them shall be clearly differentiated from each other and from the news in order not to mislead audience. The society needs to know whether he watches journalist’s product, news or political propaganda and agitation which is funded and has nothing to do with impartiality.

-How reasonable are the prices of political advertisements in Georgian TV-Channels?

-They are unreasonable. Prices of political advertisements in majority of democratic states are lower than prices of commercial ads. This norm has positive output during the election period when political entities have more chances to reach their voters through political ads due to their low prices.

-What is the situation in this regard in Georgia?

-There are no regulations in this regard in our country. As a rule, ads are ten times more expensive during pre-election campaign. Consequently, most TV-channels do not release political ads at all. Only one political party “United National Movement” pays for ads and orders them to the national TV-Channels that are under their control.

-How do you intend to eradicate this problem?

-We intend to initiate normative acts and if the parliament accepts them, it will be very important and correct decision. We believe same regulations and standards shall be established in Georgia as they have in the west.

-Do your draft-laws also envisage restoration of vide-audio footage in Georgian courts?

-We supported this initiative. The Young Lawyers’ Association also participates in the process. They worked out a draft-law which regulates this issue. In fact, media is doomed to mislead society because journalist cannot video or audio record the trials. There are cases when journalists are allowed to audio-record the process but it happens very rarely.

In the democratic countries of the West society trusts the judges. Besides that, there is a special TV-Channel which broadcasts court-hearings. Of course, there are some restrictions but there is much more transparency in the US Courts and journalists enjoy more freedom in their courts.

-Do you hope that the government will accept your draft-laws and if they decline them, how do you intend to realize your ideas?

-We do not think about similar obstacles. We know that it must be done. They have already accepted part of our draft-laws. We were asked the same questions at that time too. Everything will be realized if we wish it. If it does not work today, it will work tomorrow.

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