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GPB Outsources its Russian-Language Channel
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 18 Jul.'10 / 19:45

Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Russian-language channel, First Caucasian, has been handed over in management to a private firm, which will received GEL 4.7 million (about USD 2.54 million) from the state to run the channel.

GEL 4.7 million is part of funding with total amount of GEL 7 million, which has been allocated to GPB for the First Caucasian based on the government’s decree dated with July 9, 2010.

“We do not want this project [the First Caucasian] to be stopped, especially after what has happened with court proceedings,” Gia Chanturia told the GPB board members at a meeting on July 14, referring to a decision of Paris court of commerce which ruled against GPB in its case against Europe’s largest satellite operator, Eutelsat.

“I think it was totally unfair and incompetent decision [by the Paris-based court],” Chanturia said and added GPB had one more month to decide whether to appeal the verdict or not. He also said that he personally was in favor of appealing.

The channel’s broadcasting is currently suspended; GPB said the channel, which mainly aims at audience in Russia and its North Caucasus region, would resume broadcasting in next few months. Chanturia told the GPB board members that launch of satellite broadcast had already been “resolved with other more honest partners”; he, however, declined to discuss the details of the matter publicly at this stage.
 
Chanturia said that it had been decided to outsource the entire channel in order to make its management more effective and for that purpose a private firm was hired.

The firm, which will be in charge of management of the Russian-language TV channel, was co-founded by a British journalist Robert Parsons. He has been international affairs editor at France 24 TV and worked as BBC Moscow correspondent in1993-2002; he was a director of RFE/RL’s Georgian Service in 2003-2005.
 
Parsons told members of GPB board of trustees on July 14 that the idea itself of setting up such a channel was “very good” in the region where “media environment is very hostile towards Georgia”, wherein the Russian media was trying to create “distorted image” of Georgia.

He also said that while pursuing this idea “we have to be very careful.”

“It [the channel] must not under any circumstances be perceived as propagandistic… What I try to make clear to my staff is that we won’t go down that road… that would be a waste of time; it should be an objective, fair channel in which this [Georgian] government will be as subjected to a fair criticism as any other government in this region,” Parsons said.

He said that the channel should talk to viewers in the Caucasus region “critically, but constructively” about developments in Georgia.

Parsons said his goal was turn the channel into a standard of journalism in Georgia, into kind of “a new school of journalism.”

He said it would cost expensive, because the channel will have to compete with foreign broadcasters in the region.

“It has to look good,” he said.

Parsons said that he had invited an award winning journalist David Chater with more than 30 years experience in television news to lead the First Caucasian Channel’s newsroom. The current head of news programs in the channel is Ekaterina Kotrikadze, with whom Parsons co-founded the firm, which will manage the channel.

He said the plan was to have correspondents in Moscow, Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia, Makhachkala in Dagestan, Kiev, Brussels, Washington, Yerevan, Baku, Ankara and Tehran.

The decision on handing over of the channel into private management was approved by GPB’s board of trustees at the meeting on July 14, although three of its members, those from Media Club, abstained from supporting the decision; they were requesting not to take the decision hastily and to allow more discussions on the matter; but their request was not shared by most of the board members present at the session.

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