Parliament approved on July 31 three new members of the public broadcaster’s board of trustees and endorsed with the first hearing amendment to the law envisaging increase of number of seats in the board from current nine to fifteen.
Three new members of the board are Davit Aprasidze, dean of philosophy and social sciences faculty at the Ilia Chavchavadze State University (he was a host of a political talk show at public TV for over a year till February, 2008); Zurab Davitashvili, a former lawmaker from the ruling party and a professor at the Tbilisi State University and Davit Kandelaki, a documentary filmmaker; the latter was recommended by MP Gia Tortladze from the parliamentary minority and others were the ruling party favorites.
Three candidates were proposed by the President for each out of three vacant seats; hence total of nine candidates were proposed. Voting by the Parliament was a formality as future members were already known in advance.
With these new appointments there are eight members in the nine-seat board. Seats became vacant after four board members resigned in April in protest over the public TV’s, what they called, biased coverage of political events in favor of the authorities. Nominations for one remaining vacant seat are expected in August.
The board will appoint new general director of the public broadcaster by August 10; the post remains vacant since July 20 when Levan Kubaneishvili filed resignation for reasons, which he is declining to explain.
Also on July 31, the Parliament approved with its first reading a draft amendment to the law, according to which number of public broadcaster’s board members will increase from nine to fifteen.
Lawmaker from the ruling party, Pavle Kublashvili, who chairs the parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said on July 31, that the increase of number of board members would enable the opposition to nominate their favorite candidates.
President Saakashvili offered during his address to the Parliament on July 20 to share seats equally between the ruling party and the opposition – four to each and with one seat going to the civil society representative. But this proposed arrangement later was revised after it was offered to increase number of board members to fifteen, wherein ruling party and the opposition will have seven seats each and one a civil society representative.
Lawmakers from the parliamentary minority offered to delay election of a new general director of the public broadcaster unless the new arrangement of the board went into force; the proposal was not shared by the ruling party.
Parliamentary minority lawmakers also called to give more powers to the public TV’s board. The President also spoke about readiness to give more authority to the board in his speech to the Parliament on July 20, but no concrete proposal has yet been tabled in this regard. The board of trustees has little say in the broadcaster’s editorial policy. Its function is limited with only setting the broadcaster’s programming priorities in general. MP Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Movement said increase of seats in the board would have no sense without increase its powers.