Kintsurashvili vows to secure independent
Tamar Kintsurashvili was elected to a six-year term by the Board of Public Broadcasting as director-general thereof on August 19. The appointment of the general director is a crucial step in establishing the first-ever politically independent, publicly-funded broadcasting entity.
Kintsurashvili, who until recently worked for the non-governmental human rights advocacy organization Liberty Institute, was herself member of the Board, but withdrew her membership on August 13 to join the 23 other candidates who were competing to chair Public Broadcasting.
Kintsurashvili’s decision was regarded as controversial and most of the other participants of the competition branded her move “unethical.” Opponents claim that the competition turned into a mere “formality” after Tamar Kintsurashvili decided to run for the position, implying that she enjoyed illicit government support. But the new director general of Public Broadcasting downplays criticism and says that the law did not prohibit her participation in the competition.
In July the nine-member Board of the Public Broadcasting failed to choose a winner from among sixteen candidates, citing the contenders’ lack of experience in media management, and re-advertised the position.
Kintsurashvili, 35, worked for the newspaper Droni in 1993-2000 as deputy editor-in-chief. She was a PR manager at the beer company Castel-Georgia in 2001. Since 2001 Kintsurashvili has led media programs at the Liberty Institute, where, she says, she gained considerable experience in developing media legislation. The Law “on Public Broadcasting” currently in force, was drafted by the Liberty Institute.
In an interview with Civil Georgia on August 20, Kintsurashvili said the development of unbiased news coverage will be her top priority. As the first-ever chief executive of Public Broadcasting, she says she will try to shape the company as “a bearer of democratic and civil society values.”
“Strengthening of news service is of crucial importance. Public television should first gain public confidence and then it will become possible only after providing unbiased, balanced and genuinely objective information and news to society. So at the first stage I plan to place the major focus on the news service. Only at succeeding stages will it be possible to think about other services and programs,” Kintsurashvili said.
She said that securing an independent editorial policy will be crucial in this regard. “I think that lack of independent editorial policy is a major problem in Georgian media organizations. Legislation is comprehensive in this respect, but unfortunately it is not implemented in practice,” Kintsurashvili said.
She thinks that the distribution of duties and responsibilities to a lower managerial level will foster the independence of the editorial policy. “We should delegate a certain level of decision-making to lower level managers. But this will require highly professional managers and producers, that is why we should re-train existing staff in accordance with international standards,” Kintsurashvili said.
The new Director-General believes that Public Television has an advantage and unlike the private television stations, which currently dominate the Georgian media market (Rustavi 2, Imedi TV, Mze TV), it will have more of an opportunity to establish editorial independence, as “it is not owned by a tycoon.”
“While private televisions are financed chiefly by [media] tycoons who have personal interests, Public TV has guaranteed financing [from the state budget], currently up to 17 million Lari [USD 9.4 million]. This is an advantage which should be utilized,” Kintsurashvili said.
She said that there is “absolute mess” in the issues related with the television’s finances and property.
“We should immediately carry out an inventory of property. It is impossible now to find out what kind of property the television owns. According to the documentation, quite a large amount of money has been spent in recent years for upgrading the television’s equipment. But the reality is that the TV still urgently needs a technical upgrade and no one knows where the money went,” Kintsurashvili said.
In her brief concept for the development of Public Broadcasting submitted to the Board for consideration, there is a separate chapter regarding the role of the public television in the process of integration of ethnic and religious minorities.
“It is a long-term plan, but I think the creation of local public broadcasters in regions predominately populated by ethnic minorities, for example Public Broadcasting in Samtskhe-Javakheti [Armenian-populated region], Public Broadcasting in Kvemo Kartli [Azerbaijani-populated region] and of course these local televisions will operate under the aegis of the Georgian Public Broadcasting,” Kintsurashvili said.
She says that the covering of upcoming parliamentary by-elections in Georgia’s five single-mandate constituencies “will be a kind of first test” for her and Public Broadcasting. “But less than two months remain before these elections – it is a short period of time - so I can not guarantee that we will pass this test perfectly,” she added.
Kintsurashvili officially assumed her duties on August 22. She says that “public television should become a flagship in the Georgian media space,” adding that she will immediately quit the job if she fails to implement her plans.