Board Makes Interviews with Public TV Top Job Contenders Public
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Aug.'09 / 14:53

In a compromise solution, following calls for transparency of selection process of public broadcaster’s new general director, the network’s board of trustees decided to post videos of its interviews with three shortlisted contenders on the broadcaster’s website.

Video files were uploaded later on the same day when interviews were conducted on August 7; live televised debates between the three candidates were also held on the public TV’s First Channel late on August 7.

Gia Chanturia, an acting general director, who was Levan Kubaneishvili’s deputy before the latter quit the post of general director late last month; as well as a long-time journalist Zviad Koridze and a film director Giorgi Kacharava were shortlisted out of total fifteen by eight members of the board through a secret ballot on August 6.

During the interview Gia Chanturia told the board members that in case of his election on the post, he would advocate for more powers for the board of trustees and introduce new, as he said, more flexible and effective management structure.

Chanturia, who in the capacity of deputy general director was in charge of production and was chief producer of the broadcaster, said he had no say to influence decisions related with procurements and news programming. He tried to distance himself from some of the contentious issues, which are related with the broadcaster’s procurement policies and spending.

“I understand society demands transparency; but even for me this information was not accessible, not because someone was blocking it from me, but simply because of the current managerial structure, which did not allow me [in the capacity of deputy general director in charge of production] to have an access to that type of information,” Chanturia said.

But he also told the board members: “I am not trying to portray myself as a good guy and others as bad ones.”

He said that in case of election on the post he would make the broadcaster’s finances more transparent.

Chanturia, who is regarded by many media commentators and activists to be the authorities’ favorite candidate for the post, defended the broadcaster’s editorial policies saying that its news programs “are the most balanced among the Georgia television stations.”

“I don’t doubt about impartiality of our journalists, but increase of their professionalism is required,” he said and added that more “in-depth coverage” of major developments was required.

During the TV debates, Chanturia, like two other candidates, pledged that in case of election on the post, the public broadcaster would “definitely” air investigative reporting.

The public broadcaster employees a team of journalists for the purpose of producing investigative reporting, but the broadcaster has aired not a single report of that type.

Although Chanturia distanced himself from this issue by saying that in the capacity of chief producer of the broadcaster it was not up to him to clarify reasons why the broadcaster was not airing investigative reports, he also tried to put a blame for that on the team of journalists itself by saying that “as far as I know they were not active enough.”

In the interview with the board and then during the TV debates, Chanturia addressed one of the most contentious issues related with him involving use of a disparaging term while referring to male homosexuals during a roundtable discussion, which was then published by a monthly magazine, Tskheli Shokoladi.

Although in TV debates he acknowledged that his remarks were “not correct,” he also said that “discussions were heated” and made those remarks when his emotions ran high. He also accused the magazine, which published the remarks, of distorting the context.

Another contender Zviad Koridze, who worked in editorial boards of various newspapers and at different times worked on senior editorial positions in various television stations, criticized the public broadcaster’s current editorial policy and told the board members that public TV lacked “fact-based journalism” wherein journalists study and investigate facts instead of “providing commentaries by experts as facts.”

When asked by one board member what he thought was a reason behind that problem - “lack of professionalism or some other factors”, Koridze responded that the reason was both. Although during the interview no one specified “other factors”, in general when it comes to discussing problems of the Georgian television stations and media freedom two factors are mainly stressed by commentators and analysts – government control of national television stations and lack of professionalism.

“I guess the political spectrum – and I mean here both the authorities and the opposition – is not interested in having a fact-based, professional journalism,” Koridze told board members.

The third contender, Giorgi Kacharava, who is little known for the public, told the board that although having an extensive experience in film and TV series production, news and political programming was his “weak point, in which I would require most of advice and recommendations” if elected on the post.

“But I know one principle – we should not create perception that someone is being blocked from being heard,” he said.

He also told the board that he wanted the television “to be popular, capable of bringing money.” Kacharava, however, also added that it did not mean that programs with low rating, but which “are needed”, should be “thrown away.”

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