Parliament passed on May 17 with its first reading package of legislative amendments to the law on broadcasting, which envisages measures for more financial transparency of broadcasters, reforming rule of composition of public TV’s board of trustees and transforming Adjara TV’s status into public broadcasting.
The bill has been initiated by the Georgian Dream coalition, based on proposal which have long been pushed for by a group known as Coalition for Media Advocacy.
GPB’s Board of Trustees
Change of rule of composition of the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) board of trustees is one of the key elements of the bill.
According to existing rule, the President selects three candidates for each of the 15 seats in the board and then the Parliament approves one of those three candidates for each seat.
The draft of amendments offers to reduce number of board members from current 15 to nine, who will take their seats for a six-year term, and to exclude the President from the process of selecting board members.
The new rule, according to the bill will have to go into effect from January 1, 2014, meaning that the seating board of GPB will continue working till that time.
Three members, according to the planned new rule, have to be nominated by the parliamentary majority, three by the parliamentary minority group and other lawmakers who are not part of either parliamentary majority or minority groups.
Candidates for these six seats should be selected through competition by a nine-member commission, which should be established specifically for this purpose by the Parliamentary Chairman and should be composed of civil society representatives. The commission should nominate at least three candidates for each vacant seat in GPB’s board of trustees.
Two members of GPB’s board have to be selected by the Public Defender through competition.
One member will be nominated by the local legislative body of Adjara Autonomous Republic.
The bill also envisages giving the Parliament the right to disband GPB’s board of trustees in case of GBP’s budget problems or failure to fulfill its content-related programming priorities. Three-fifth majority of lawmakers, that is 90 votes, will be required for the Parliament to disband GBP’s board.
Public Broadcaster of Adjara Autonomous Republic
Currently the Batumi-based Adjara TV is under the subordination of the Adjara Autonomous Republic’s government.
The proposed bill offers to reform this television channel on public broadcasting model and to legally and financially affiliate it with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.
The bill offers to allocate funds for Adjara TV’s operations from GPB’s budget; amount of funding should be at least 15% of GPB’s annual budget. According to the draft GPB’s annual budget should be not less than 0.14%, instead of current 0.12%, of country’s GDP for previous year.
The bill envisages measures for making broadcasters’ finances transparent.
The bill, if enforced, will obligate individual and legal entities having broadcast licenses to fill in and make public their property declarations.
According to the bill, before May 1 of each year broadcast license holders should submit to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) report on sources of their finances together with audit reports; the same information should also be posted on broadcaster’s website.
Nationwide broadcast license holders will have to submit to GNCC and post on their websites before May 1 of each year information about their assets and liabilities, as well as about investments, including by indicating identities of investors, made during the reporting period.
Nationwide broadcast license holders, according to the bill, will also have to make public once in a quarter information about their advertisement revenues.
The bill, if enforced, will obligate cable providers to transmit television channels with news programs beyond pre-election period.
The issue was high on the agenda ahead of the October, 2012 parliamentary elections.
The legislative amendment, passed in June 2012, made this rule, known as “must-carry”, legally binding for the cable providers, but only for 60 days before the polling day. Although it was no longer legally binding, after the October elections the rule remained in practice.