The fate of Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) Russian-language First Caucasian Channel remains unclear after GPB lost the case against Europe’s leading satellite operator, Eutelsat, in the Paris court of commerce.
Maya Bichikashvili, deputy general director of GPB, told Civil.Ge on Tuesday, that in its ruling on July 12, the Paris-based court rejected GPB’s motion demanding from Eutelsat to restore the Russian-language channel back on W7 satellite operating at the 36 degrees East - a key location for broadcasting in Russia and other CIS states. GPB was also seeking reimbursement of financial damage caused by removal of the First Caucasian Channel from Eutelsat’s satellite.
GPB claimed that Eutelsat violated a contract by putting First Caucasian, the channel mainly targeting audience in Russia and its North Caucasus, off the satellite less than two weeks after it started broadcasting in January.
Eutelsat cited the end of trial period behind its decision, saying that no contract was in force with GPB. But the Georgia authorities blamed Eutelsat for yielded Russia’s pressure. Russian officials have condemned the First Caucasian Channel as Georgia’s “anti-Russian propaganda” and an attempt “to plant ideology of extremism” in North Caucasus.
Eutelsat has denied Georgia’s allegations and said that in 2009 it was negotiating with several customers interested in the same capacity on W7 satellite and decided to allocate this capacity to Moscow-based Intersputnik, which leased 16 transponders on W7 for Gazprom Media Group’s Pay-TV provider NTV-Plus. Eutelsat said that it had received “a firm commitment” from Intersputnik “for significantly more capacity than that requested by the Georgian broadcaster”. Eutelsat has offered GPB to place the First Caucasian on W2A satellite as an alternative, but the offer was rejected by GPB, citing that the newly offered location was not properly covering the geographical area it was interested in.
After its removal from the satellite, the First Caucasian Channel was only available for viewers in Tbilisi through cable networks and on internet. But in early June the channel suspended broadcasting - although still keeping presence on internet - pending the decision of the Paris court of commerce.
The GPB deputy general director said that no final decision was yet made by the broadcaster about the future of its First Caucasian Channel.
According to GPB court costs, related to case against Eutelsat, was up to GEL 900,000 (about USD 490,000).