On May 28, 2103 Levan Gakheladze, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) presented GPB report 2012 to the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration. In the course of the session the Board chairperson thoroughly discussed the accounts payable to the State, GEL 5,8 mln, and disputable GEL 8 mln. At the Committee hearing, which lasted almost three hours, MPs posed numerous questions about the accumulation of the GEL 13 mln debt. According to Eliso Chapidze of the Parliamentary majority the report is incomplete, many questions remain unanswered. “I think it’s a collection of reports of the authors of programs and audit reports. With the present report I failed to find answers why the public broadcaster decided on this or that program, whether tender was held or how the budget for each program looks, whether there is protectionist approach to either presenter, and the degree of adequacy of the salaries paid. At the same time I have a remark to make: the public broadcaster seldom covers the problems the regions face, besides the programs produced in the minority languages are hardly ever aired at a favorable time or format. Moreover, there is a lack of journalism investigations in the programming.”
Public Broadcaster, Levan Gakheladze clarified, airs TV programs in four minority languages (Abkhazian, Ossetian, Armenian and Azerbaijani) and radio programs in five minority languages (Abkhazian, Ossetian, Armenian, Azerbaijani and Kurdish). Moreover, the Public Broadcaster purchases airtime on regional TV channels and from 20:00 to 22:00 the programs for ethnic minorities are being aired. Furthermore, since 2009 access to programs has fairly expanded. The program priorities, Levan Gakheladze stressed, includes demand for reporting on regional problems and journalist investigations “unfortunately these demands tend to get postponed from year to year for subjective or objective reasons.”
Levan Gakheladze said he does not take responsibility for the present report since it includes a number of drawbacks and Director General is in charge of addressing them. Internal or eternal audit inspections are not enough, he stressed, annual probes by Chamber of Control and Revenue service shall be determined at the legislative level and introduced, under the given circumstances the reports will be comprehensive.
Most of the questions, the Parliamentary majority had, touched upon GPB’s debt to the State. Levan Gakheladze discussed the reasons of the debt generation as well as approved and disputable issues. According to the GPB Board Chair based on the 2010 government decision broadcasters were granted financial amnesty, accordingly GEL 9 mln was written off from the Public Broadcaster. “That was the debt the Public Broadcaster inherited from State TV-Radio Corporation.”
Levan Gakheladze: “From my viewpoint the organization based on new principles should not have had a financial load that was ultimately written off. The new debt can be divided into three categories, the debt to the State implies the loan the broadcaster got in order to receive and transmit satellite signal from the 1990s to 2000, then-Minister of Communications was in charge of satellite broadcasting. There is another obscure debt GPB owed to the State satellite company, after restructuring the pubic broadcaster was imposed to pay, therefore we raised a State loan of GEL 4 mln, by now GEL 2.5 mln of the credit has been paid. Another component is GEL 3,8 mln payable to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) due to the live transmission of international events. In January 2012 with the participation of Finance Minister Dimitri Gvindadze and me a tripartite agreement was reached. According to the treaty the broadcaster, during the fiscal year, would be paying the accounts payable and by the end of the year the Ministry of Finance would transfer the given sum to GPB. The latter paid GEL 3 mln, the Ministry though failed to fulfill its promise, hence we had a waste in the budget. GEL 800,000 was declared debt after SONY provided installation of GEL 7 mln worth equipments for the transmission of sittings, the sum did not include VAT and here again public broadcaster was to pay the tax. As for levying GEL 8 mln it’s yet disputable and it is not approved,” Levan Gakheladze clarified.
The GPB Board Chair commented on the non-application of the legal right granted to the broadcaster last week, in particular the right to film and air court hearings of deep public interest. It is also within the competence of the Director General, he said.
According to the parliamentary majority in the forthcoming week Levan Gakhalze is going to present the given report to the Committee for Education, Science and Culture as well as Committees for Sector Economy and Economic Policy.