Irakli Chikovani, the director-general of Rustavi 2 TV side-stepped a question on the station’s ownership in an interview published by the daily 24 Saati (24 Hours) on March 1.
“There are two owners, one is [MP Davit] Bezhuashvili’s well-known Georgian Industrial Group [GIG], and the other is a Georgian business group; I don’t think it is necessary to go into the details,” he replied when asked who owned the station.
Rustavi 2 TV and Mze TV, according to documents submitted to the Georgian National Communication Commission, are owed by GIG and GeoMedia Group. GIG, owns a 45% share of both stations. Intelligence chief Gela Bezhuashvili’s brother, lawmaker Davit Bezhuashvili, is a founding member of the group. The remaining shares in both Rustavi 2 TV and Mze TV are owned by GeoMedia Group. The only information available on the company is that it is registered in the Marshall Islands.
“The only thing demanded by the owners is that the channel should be financially successful,” Chikovani said. He added that it “earns enough to survive and this is a success in itself.”
Chikovani, who became the station's top executive last October replaced Koba Davarashvili. He strongly denied widespread allegations that the TV station was under the control of the authorities. He also denied that editorial policy was being dictated from outside the newsroom.
“You are asking me if somebody is calling me [to give orders]; nobody is calling me and nobody is telling me what to do,” Chikovani said. “I told journalists: if someone calls you, give them my phone number and tell them to call me.”
He acknowledged that with Imedi TV's closure Rustavi 2 TV had no major local competitors. “If you look at the ratings we are far ahead of other TV channels… though it is bad that there is no competition,” Chikovani said.
Chikovani revealed the station would soon launch what he described as a BBC Hard Talk style program to be hosted by Nino Japiashvili and Eka Kvesitadze.