Georgia's current regulation of the broadcasting sector has proven insufficient to ensure a transparent media ownership and to promote a competitive, pluralistic television market, Transparency International Georgia said in a report released on November 20.
The report, which is an attempt to shed some light on ownership of Georgia’s broadcasters, also provides an assessment of country’s TV market environment and television landscape.
It says that those who are aiming to anonymously control private TV stations have taken advantage of liberal regulation, allowing foreign ownership of television outlets, and established off-shore post boxes in tax havens.
Degson Limited, a dominant co-owner of the national TV station, Rustavi 2, and of Mze, another national channel, is registered the British Virgin Islands.
TI Georgia says in the report that “another mysterious entity” called Denal Union, which controls 100% of Sakartvelo TV station, seems to be closely linked to the Georgian Ministry of Defense. The legal structure of Rakeen and its subsidiary, RAAK Georgia Holding, which owns 90% of Imedi, “is not transparent and fuels allegations about the involvement of Georgian individuals in this enterprise,” according to the report.
The report also includes list of about four dozen of television stations operating in Georgia, including information about their official owners, obtained from the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC).
“Several other regional stations are officially owned by people who are closely connected to members of national or regional administrative bodies and high-ranking party officials,” the report says.
It also notes that GNCC, which “is not perceived as a truly independent regulatory body,” lacks the mandate to establish who the actual owners of television stations are and to investigate who is behind the legal entities that directly own the license holder.
“This problem could be addressed by an amendment of the broadcasting law, in order to ensure that sufficient information about the shareholder structure of license holders and their indirect owners is reported to the GNCC and also made accessible to the general public,” TI Georgia says.