U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, said the draft law on transparency of owners of broadcasters, currently under consideration in the Parliament, was a step forward to improving media environment in the country.
He said in an interview with Georgian Public Broadcaster’s weekly talk-show Accents on February 27, that one of the problems, but not the only one, was “ambiguity who exactly owns” media outlets, as well as “who is making decisions about what stories are covered and what stories are not covered.”
“I think that one of the first steps, it is important to see, is additional transparency of media ownership. The draft law that is in the Parliament obviously will be an important step forward if it is approved,” Bass said.
He also said that he was “encouraged” to hear from the Georgian officials that they were ready to also consider a separate proposal pushed for by a group of legal and media experts. The proposal addresses not only media ownership transparency, but also broader media-related issues, including such as measure to ease access to public information.
The U.S. ambassador said that both of these components were important for developing media and journalism in Georgia.
“Media environment… is one of the most important elements to creating the [electoral] campaign environment we all want to see next year to ensure the parliamentary elections [in 2012] are competitive,” Bass said.
In the same interview he criticized the rule according to which broadcast licenses are issued based on content.
“That, to my mind, runs counter to how media regulation works in a democratic society,” the U.S. ambassador said.
Granting of new broadcast licenses is currently suspended by the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) citing that it has not yet concluded a public opinion survey to define in what type of media content the public is interested so that to then decide on broadcast license seekers’ applications shelved in GNCC.