Unlike other post-Soviet states, Russia no longer has its “cultural influence” over Georgia, President Saakashvili said on November 8 and in this context spoke of power of television as a tool having “significant cultural and political influence on our identity.”
“Today Russia, this retarded, feudal country – and let’s say it directly what Russia is today: economically it is Nigeria sitting on oil – this retarded country has cultural influence almost on every post-Soviet country… It actually has no such influence over Georgia anymore,” Saakashvili said while speaking at a meeting with a group of students from Free University of Tbilisi.
“Why is it so important to strengthen our televisions stations? It has significant cultural and political influence on our identity,” he continued. “We no longer watch ORT [Russia’s broadcaster now called Channel One], NTV [Gazprom-owned Russian broadcaster] or RTR [Russian broadcaster now called Rossiya-1] and thousands of other abominable things.”
“On the contrary, a Russian-language Georgian television is now being created and you will see how much audience it [Georgia’s Russian-language channel] will take from them [the Russian broadcasters], because these are the television stations [referring to the Georgian ones], which originated from democratic culture of the ancient nation with genuine identity,” Saakashvili said.
Russian television stations, which carry news, remain blocked in Georgia since the August, 2008 war after the local cable TV networks stopped carrying those channels upon an apparent government instructions. These Russian channels, however, are still available for those views, which have satellite dishes.
While mentioning the Russian-language Georgian television station, Saakashvili was apparently referring to the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s First Caucasian Channel, which was launched in January, 2010 to target Russian-speaking audience in North and South Caucasus. It, however, suspended broadcasting after Europe’s leading satellite operator, Eutelsat, denied to host the channel on its satellite.
In July, 2010 the Georgian Public Broadcaster handed over the channel’s management rights to a private firm, K1, which was co-founded by a British journalist Robert Parsons, who was approached by the Georgian government with a request to run the channel.
A one year contract worth GEL 13.9 million was signed with K1 in July under which the First Caucasian channel, which is currently in the process of rebranding, has to re-launch broadcasting no later than January 30, 2011.