PM Ivanishvili said he doubts there will be any “serious” potential buyers willing to purchase Channel 9 TV, owned by his family, which went off the air after Ivanishvili announced about intention to shut it down on September 1.
Ivanishvili, who said that he was spending up to USD 1 million per month to keep the TV station running, criticized a decision of management of Channel 9 to suspend broadcasting prematurely before scheduled date of closure.
“It was very regrettable how journalists and top management acted after I made the statement [about plans to shut down the channel],” Ivanishvili told journalists on August 22, adding that such decision was “very strange”, “unprofessional” and “shocking.”
“Majority of those working in the Channel 9 was not professional journalists and while working [in Channel 9] they were able to gain professional skills and they were receiving salary and now they reproach me saying that I used them… It is very regrettable. It shows that I made a right decision,”
“I spent 10 million dollars over the past ten months just for the sake of journalists [working in the Channel 9]; I had no other purpose at all; I’ve never given any instructions to the television station neither before the elections nor after we came into government,”
“It is very uncomfortable for me to be an owner of a media outlet, because I am head of the government,” Ivanishvili said.
Luba Eliashvili, director-general of Channel 9 TV, said it was her “unilateral” decision to suspend broadcasting; she said the personnel was shocked by PM’s announcement that he was planning to shut down the channel on September 1; she said that the announcement demoralized staff and she deemed it appropriate to suspend broadcasting immediately rather than to wait for September 1 as she saw no motivation in the staff to continue working.
Asked about businessman Zaza Okuashvili reportedly having an interest in buying the Channel 9 TV, as well as about proposal to sell the channel to a group of individuals intending to set up a joint stock company for buying the Channel 9 TV, PM Ivanishvili responded that he’s not aware of these proposals and also added no serious proposal has yet been tabled so he’s not considering those proposals to be serious. “We will consider serious proposals if there are any,” Ivanishvili said, adding that he doubts there will be any serious bidder. He, however, also reiterated that his offer to sell the channel for third of its market value on the condition that new owner keeps the staff and secures station’s further operations remains in force.
Channel 9 TV’s director-general, Luba Eliashvili, said that businessman Zaza Okuashvili was interested in buying the channel; Okuashvili owned Iberia TV before it was closed down in 2004 three months after Omega Group businesses, including Iberia TV, owned by Okuashvili, were raided by special task forces in what the authorities at the time said was part of tax evasion probe. Eliashvili at the time led Iberia TV’s newsroom.