Most of the Georgian viewers prefer entertainment and music TV shows over news, according to the survey commissioned and released by the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC).
According to the survey, carried out by Tbilisi-based polling firm BCG Research in a period between October 2008 and June 2010, 35.5% of respondents prefer music programs, followed by entertainment talk shows (29%); TV series (20%); movies (16.2%) and comedy shows (15.7%).
News programs, according to this survey, are on the tenth position with 10.6% and analytical programs on the thirteenth position with 3.9%.
The survey results are in stark contrast to the findings revealed by EU-funded research, carried out by Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) in October 2009, according to which Georgians have a tremendous appetite for news and investigative reporting.
During the public hearing of the survey results on April 5, head of GNCC’s legal department, Kakhi Kurashvili, said that it was inappropriate to compare results of various surveys because of differences in their methodologies. BCG Research also said comparison was irrelevant because of differences in methodology and questionnaires used in surveys.
GNCC, according to the law, has to define priorities for broadcast license seekers based on findings of the public opinion survey.
According to the law GNCC has to carry out such surveys once in every two years; the previous such survey was conducted in July, 2004 and it found that news programs were the most popular, followed by movies, comedy and music shows and various types of talk shows.
Release of a new survey was delayed until now, which in itself was a source of controversy as most of the broadcast license seekers were denied in their applications by GNCC citing that it had no results of the new survey to define in what type of media content the public was interested.
According to GNCC’s new survey most of the respondents also think that there is a lack of entertainment and music shows on TV and only 11.3% of respondents say that they lack news programs.
According to the same survey there is lack of interest among the respondents towards community radio stations; it says that there is no interest towards such radios even in the regions densely populated by ethnic minority groups.
The issue was briefly debated at a parliamentary session on April 4 with lawmaker from parliamentary minority party Christian-Democratic Movement, Levan Vepkhvadze, saying that the credibility of this survey was very questionable. He said it was unlikely that respondents preferred even more entertainment shows given redundancy of such programming on the nationwide broadcasters.
The results of the survey, MP Vepkhvadze said, might be used by GNCC to demand from TV stations to modify their programming in line with the findings of the survey leading to reducing news coverage.
A lawmaker from the ruling party, Akaki Minashvili, responded that although there would be no need in modifying programming for those TV station already holding broadcast licenses, GNCC would “give priority” to the issues reflected in the survey while considering on issuing new TV and radio broadcast licenses.
During the hearings at GNCC on April 5 one commission member Irakli Moseshvili (he was nominated as GNCC member by Christian-Democratic Movement) proposed to dropped the survey on the grounds that it was “outdated” and to commission a new survey. But the proposal was turned down with four votes to one by the commission members.
GNCC is expected to approve new broadcast priorities, based on this survey, at a session on April 18.
“After that it will be possible to resume issuing of broadcast licenses and the commission, based on the law, will be guided with the results of this survey,” Kakha Kurashvili, head of the GNCC’s legal department, said.
He said that 25 applications of broadcast license seekers were currently pending consideration in the GNCC.