Tbilisi-based Channel 9, owned by PM Ivanishvili’s family, stopped broadcasting late on August 19, several hours after the PM announced about plans to shut his channel down to distance himself from media outlet ahead of the presidential elections.
Ivanishvili said in his statement that after failed attempts to sell the channel, he decided to close it down on September 1; but TV station’s personnel decided not to continue working and to stop broadcasting from late August 19.
In his statement Ivanishvili, however, also said that there was still a possibility to buy the channel for third of its market value before September 1.
On August 20 director-general of the Channel 9, Luba Eliashvili, said without specifying that a number of potential buyers expressed interest in purchasing the TV station following PM’s announcement. “There are plenty of bidders,” said Eliashvhili, who is a wife of Georgian Dream MP Shalva Shavgulidze. “They want to know the price and we are working on that now.”
Meanwhile a Facebook group was launched after Ivanishvili’s announcement which offers the public to establish and invest in a joint stock company, which will buy the Channel 9. The group, which is called “We are Buying Channel 9 and Establishing Joint Stock Company”, has also launched an online registration form in which would-be shareholders of potential JSC can register.
In a letter to PM Ivanishvili, the group says that selling of the TV channel to any single business group or an individual will not protect the station from possible political meddling and the best option will be if this media outlet goes in ownership of a joint stock company with large number of shareholders; such a solution will make Channel 9 “public” broadcasting both with “form and substance,” the letter reads and asks the PM to inform the group about terms of sale. The group had over 3,500 members and 206 registered would-be shareholders of potential JSC as of late Tuesday afternoon.
Channel 9 TV’s director, Luba Eliashvili, said that the initiative, which is spearheaded Vasil Maglaperidze who previously hosted a talk show on Channel 9, “is not serious.” Maglaperidze quite the TV station after Eliashvili became the direct of Channel 9.
Commenting on campaign environment in the country ahead of the October 27 presidential election, President Saakashvili said on Tuesday that “there are problems in respect of media environment” and cited shutting down of Channel 9 among his arguments. He said “it’s bad” that this TV channel was closed down. Saakashvili also said that Ivanishvili launched the Channel 9 just for "one purpose" to air prison abuse videos ahead of the parliamentary elections last year. “This channel had only one purpose – to air footage, shot or staged by [Vladimer] Bedukadze [a former prison officer behind some of those videos depicting abuse of inmates, which emerged in September 2012]… So Channel 9 personnel were used and then sidelined,” Saakashvili said.