Head of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Gia Chanturia, is in Paris trying to convince Europe’s leading satellite operator, Eutelsat, to continue hosting Georgia’s Russian-language First Caucasian Channel.
The First Caucasian Channel was launched early this month, initially on internet and it became available on satellite since January 15.
For less than two weeks the channel was hosted on Eutelsat’s new W7 satellite operating at the 36 degrees East - a key location for broadcasting in Russia and other CIS states, as well as in Europe and Africa. The Georgian Public Broadcaster’s First Channel, as well as many of Russian TV channels, is also available on the same location.
Eutelsat took the First Caucasian Channel off the satellite, citing the end of testing period, without yet signing a new contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
Le Figaro newspaper ran an article on the matter on January 27, suggesting that Russia could be behind Eutelsat’s decision to take the First Caucasian off its satellite without prolonging a contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster. The newspaper quoted unnamed Tbilisi-based diplomat saying that Eutelsat “is under strong pressure” from Russia not to strike the contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
Russian officials have publicly condemned the First Caucasian Channel as Georgia’s “anti-Russian propaganda” and an attempt “to plant ideology of extremism” in North Caucasus.
Gia Chanturia, general director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, told RFE/RL’s Russian-language Ekho Kavkaza on January 29, that “situation is strange.”
He said that after the testing period, the contract was due to go into force from January 31. ““But suddenly problems have emerged and we are now trying to settle them,” Chanturia said.
He also said that the operator company initially complained about the content of the channel, but latter cited technical problems behind the suspension of the First Caucasian’s satellite broadcasting.