Giorgi Baratashvili, Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) long-time insider, who was its technical director, became GPB’s new director general for a six-year term.
He was elected on the post by 13-member GPB’s board of trustees with 8 votes on December 26.
Baratashvili, who joined the broadcaster in early 1990s as an assistant to a cameraman, was most recently head of the GPB’s technical department and an acting director general of the broadcaster after Giorgi Chanturia quit the post on December 14.
His election on the post by the board was not a surprise as Baratashvili was regarded as a favorite candidate for most of the board members.
Baratashvili was among those five contenders who were shortlisted and then interviewed by the board members among total of 143 applicants; among shortlisted contenders Natia Abramia, who works as a producer for BBC World Service, received most of the votes, 3, after Baratashvili.
When interviewed by the board of trustees last week, Baratashvili said that among his priorities would be cutting operational cost of GPB through “optimization” and “restructuring”, which would also include layoffs.
Layoffs is likely to also apply newsroom of GPB’s First Channel, which now has staff of about 280 personnel, he said. GPB currently operates two TV channels and two radio stations.
He said that among his priorities would also include outsourcing of most of the GPB’s production, except of news and few other programs.
He said that cutting of cost was especially urgent against the background of remaining uncertainty about GPB’s debt accumulated as a result of unpaid taxes. Even if the Finance Ministry agrees to restructure the debt, Baratashvili said, GPB will have to cut salary expenses from current GEL 14 million to GEL 10 million next year.
During the interview with the board Baratashvili said he did not exactly know why Chanturia, who is his close friend, decided to quit, but added that he believed it was mainly related to GPB’s “financial problems.”
He also said that the public broadcaster should “definitely” launch investigative reports, something his predecessor was also pledging to do but never delivered on.
Baratashvili said he did not know why investigative reporting was not aired by the public broadcaster under its previous director; he said that although being in top management, he had never been involved in content-related decision-making process as he was in charge of technical aspects of GPB’s operations.
A public opinion survey, commissioned by NDI in November, showed that news programs of GPB’s First Channel do not enjoy with high public trust.
Asked during the interview with the board what was the reason behind low public trust towards GPB, Baratashvili said he was not able to give a precise answer on that and said “probably there were some mistakes done” in respect of GPB’s programming and its content; he, however, said he was not able to speak about it in details as he had never been in charge of the content-related issues.