Badri Patarkatsishvili has handed over management rights of his shares into Imedi media holding to Rupert Murdoch’s media giant News Corporation for a one-year term, Martin Pompadur, executive vice-president of News Corp. said on October 31.
Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi, he said that “technically” Badri Patarkatsishvili would still be an owner of his shares into the media holding which includes TV and radio station. He, however, added: “We manage the station, we will consult with him [Patarkatsishvili], but we manage the station.”
Irakli Rukhadze, chief executive of Salford Georgia, a company acting on behalf of Patarkatsishvili, said the decision was motivated with the political situation.
“There have been allegations that Imedi is an opposition TV station,” Rukhadze said. “The issue was discussed between partners [Patarkatsishvili and News Corp] and the decision was made to hand over Mr. Patarkatsishvili’s shares for management to the News Corp, which is not involved in the Georgian political life.”
“The reason of this change is that Badri has announced that he is financially supporting the opposition. He wanted to separate his ownership and power at the television station so it would not be a conflict of interests,” Martin Pompadur said.
Patarkatsishvili’s decision comes three days after he announced about his plans to finance the ten opposition parties' campaign aimed at holding parliamentary elections in April, instead of late 2008.
Earlier in October, Patarkatsishvili said that he would hand over his shares into Imedi holding to his partners from the News Corporation, in the event of going into politics.
News Corporation purchased shares into Imedi last August. Details of the deal were not announced; some reports, however, said News Corp. was controlling the media holdings 49% and the rest was controlled by Badri Patarkatsishvili.
In September, 2007, Badri Patarkatsishvili said that Georgia would serve as a hub for News Corporation’s further expansion in the post-Soviet region.
Imedi TV has been dedicating significant airtime to opposition's message. The ruling party officials and authorities, meanwhile, have been refusing to participate in the television stations’ political talks shows and debates for over a year already. Recently the government officials and the ruling party have intensified criticizing of the television for, as they put it, “an attempt to create a virtual reality.” And Patarkatsishvili has constantly been accused by the authorities of using his media outlets for confronting the government and staging a new revolution.