Vasil Maglaperidze, former lawmaker and governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region in 2005-2008, who most recently worked for GDS TV, owned by former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s family, became GPB’s new director general for a six-year term.
He was elected on the post by GPB’s eight-member board of trustees with six votes on January 6.
Maglaperidze was among those five contenders who were shortlisted among the total of 14 applicants and then interviewed by the board members.
The first round of voting on January 6 failed to identify the winner. The repeat voting was held between the two candidates who showed best results in the first round – Vasil Maglaperidze (four votes) and Tinatin Berdzenishvili (two votes), the company’s acting director.
The support of at least five board members was needed to win an outright victory in both rounds.
During the second round, Maglaperidze won with six votes against Berdzenishvili, who garnered two votes again.
Vasil Maglaperidze has worked as a journalist until 1999, before becoming a lawmaker through the party list of then ruling Citizens Union, as well as after quitting active politics. He was re-elected as MP in 2004 through the list of the National Movement – Democrats, but in 2005 he was appointed by then President Mikheil Saakashvili as the governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region; he served on this post for three years. After his dismissal from the governor’s position, Maglaperidze served as the Head of the Department of Information and Politics at the Public Defender’s Office for a year.
In 2010 Maglaperidze returned to journalistic activities. In 2012 he served as the deputy director of Channel Nine TV station owned by then PM Bidzina Ivanishvili and his family – the channel was closed down in August, 2013. From 2014 to September, 2016 Maglaperidze was the general producer of the main political talk show at by GDS TV, also owned by Ivanishvili’s family.
Sulkhan Saladze, member of the GPB’s board of trustees from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, said after Maglaperidze’s election that the new director “is not politically neutral” and he was the worst candidates among others in that respect.
“By this decision [the board] put [GPB’s] objectivity, independence, impartiality under serious doubt and is facing serious challenges,” Saladze, who did not vote in favor of Maglaperidze, told reporters on January 6.
When interviewed by the board of trustees on January 5, another member of the GPB board, Ketevan Mskhiladze, who also did not vote for the new director and who said that Vasil Maglaperidze “has clear political affiliation and political sympathies” towards the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, inquired into how Maglaperidze would manage to “shift” from his political past and pursue an impartial editorial policy.
“My political past is not a crime,” Maglaperidze answered. “I have neither debts, nor any liabilities towards the Georgian Dream… I have no obligations to politics.”
In his opening remarks during the interview, Maglaperidze noted that “the only measure of political independence” will be “the increase of trust” towards GPB, which he named as one of his priorities along with increasing competitiveness. He also noted that it would be his major goal to overcome “the main challenge” - that is, taking the leading position by GPB on the media market.
According to the latest public opinion survey, conducted by the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) in summer, GPB is the fourth most watched channel, following private televisions Rustavi 2, Imedi and Maestro.
During the interview with the board, Vasil Maglaperidze also stated that the public television, where he did not rule out staff changes, needs new building and modern equipment to create competitive products.
The Georgian Public Broadcaster is financed from the state budget – its funding has increased to GEL 46.4 million in 2017 from GEL 44.1 million a year earlier.
The post of GPB’s head became vacant on November 21, after Giorgi Baratashvili filed for resignation two years before the expiration of his term in office.
The competition for the director general’s vacant post was announced by GPB’s board of trustees on November 28. The deadline for receiving applications expired on December 28. Initially, 15 candidates filed their applications. But the number was reduced to 14; one of the candidates Bachuki Bakhtadze was disqualified for submitting incomplete documents. Nine candidates dropped out of the race as a result of the January 3 ballot.