Changes are planned at TV-Company Maestro starting February 2013. Will the program Politmeter be closed down? Which other journalists will come to work for Maestro along with Vakho Sanaia? What will be the new information policy of Maestro? Will David Gogichaishvili’s Night Show Studio cooperate with Maestro? – Media.ge spoke with Maestro Director General Baia Gadabadze about the given issues.
Gadabadze was appointed Maestro Director General in October 2013. She has 12-year experience of working in media. At different times she has worked for the GPB First Channel, IMedi TV, Radio Uznobi, TV-Company Maestro project The Cell Head Producer, City Magazine, Nanuka Zhorzholiani’s Show. Media.ge met with Baia after one of negotiations with future new employees.
- Baia, almost two months have passed since you took office of Maestro Director General. How would you assess the given period? What has changed since you came here?
Appointment as Director to Maestro was a great challenge for me as I came to work with my friends which whom I have gone through very hard times – starting from financial crisis and finishing with oppression and threatening. First time I cooperated with Maestro in 2008-2009 when the TV-Company received license for political programs. I stand with Maestro for the second time now, when the TV-Company faces great rebranding process both in visual and professional direction.
When I came here to work for the second time it was very hard for me – for someone not to understand incorrectly that when I said something, I said it as a manager who knows more than somebody else, or has more merit. In this TV-Company everyone has greatest merit, starting from security guards.
That is why these two months were a very complicated period. We in fact did not change anything in programming during this period. Main preparation is underway for the new broadcasting, which, hopefully will be launched at the end of February. By that time Maestro will be aired in a renewed, new format.
- Before we speak about the new broadcast lets speak about the new challenges Maestro is facing. What kind of television did you take for management and what do you think must by all means be changed here?
I took over a television that has very high level of confidence in the society; this cannot be achieved by any visuals, any entertainment programs, any mega-shows and anything else. Still in parallel I came to television that started working here when they were children. I remember time when once I came to television and there where only three of us – Mamuka Glondi, Gia Gachechiladze and I. When I asked where everyone else was they told me they had “last bell” at high-school. Maestro was formed by those people. These people are not teenagers anymore but they are used to fighting and that is fighting in streets, fighting for the freedom of speech, fighting for gathering information. These people have the main feature – principality. I hope they will not misunderstand me but these people need increase of professionalism. This is needs time and needs experience, which, I hope we will do together.
I have such directive from the founders – nobody has guaranteed position in television, including me. Only those who will manage to fulfill their obligations will remain in this television, naturally by consideration of their past, principality and fighting spirit. I will have to reformat, improve my professionalism and work with different standards together with them.
- This means those who work for Maestro now may leave the television by the end of February and you may hire other, more professional staff?
- You know what we plan? In order for these changes that are to take place to be objective and not to be tied to me or Nino Zhizhilashvili (who has taken over information direction and is my deputy and curator of news service), in order not to have pretensions to any of the founders, we have invited the most unbiased and highly professional people. I mean BBC Trust which is formed by leading producers and journalists. We have invited them to Georgia for one month. 4 people will come and they will train journalists, producers, cameramen and cut-editors. HR specialist will also come and precisely explain to all the journalists their duties.
These people that are coming say that we make newscasts for politicians and not for people, which I agree to. Its because we interview one politician, get a response from another politician and think that we have completed a report. In reality it is not right. We must be covering people’s problem and not politicians’ question-answer and squabbles.
- What should be Maestro new information policy?
- This is the issue we plan to define in January. 20 January these people will already be here and will help us, give us recommendations both in view of content and in view of staff – who they believe must remain in television and who has capacity of professional growth and who must leave.
Their recommendation will be important when deciding upon staff changes.
As for the format, their opinion is and I absolutely agree that people do not watch a program or newscast of duration longer than 25 minutes. 5, 6 and 7 minute video-reports are also inadmissible. It is important for a viewer to understand topic of report even when TV is on mute. We will work according to these standards.
- As I understand these reforms will affect talk-shows also. Will all the talk-shows that Maestro airs currently be closed down?
Today everything is under question. I cannot say anything decisively yet. We will probably not have any talk-shows in 11 p.m. line as it is very late. We will work with BBC trainers on the format of new programs. We also believe that political talk-shows, especially daily ones, have to some extent done their job already. Still, this does not mean what used to happen at our channels when people’s attention was drawn from important issues to entertainment programs in an attempt to conceal political decisions or crisis existing in the country. We are changing to covering social thematic and making of educational programs. The channel will not be entertainment-oriented but there will also be such programs here.
- Just now you met in your office with Sofo Zurabiani she has worked for the First Channel. You also said negotiations with Vakho Sanaia are underway. Do you plan to take other journalists from competitor channels?
- Yes, I can confirm abut Vakho Sanaia that he is our employee and we start working together in January. Sofo Zurabiani has also become our employee and she will be one of the head producers of 9 p.m. newscast and senior reporter, as they call them. She will work on international topics and I believe Sofo is a serious addition with her professionalism and experience.
Tamar Chikhladze will also work with us; we, journalists know her very well. I personally met Tamuna as a journalist in TV-Company Mze for the first time; after this she worked for the PR service of the Ministry of Culture. She is very experienced in culture sphere. I think culture does not end with covering opening of a boutique by one designer; covering of this field is a big problem. That is why I want a person who really knows the value of culture to cover it.
- As far as I know they also spoke about Nino Daraseli…
We are negotiating with Nino Daraseli. We believe we need several people for programs that will not be of political talk-show and culture character. Good ideas come only as result of discussion and dispute. I want to create a team which I will make decisions with. I want Nino to be in this team as she is a very interesting and deep person.
- As for Nino Zhizhilashvili, will she manage the news service in new Maestro?
Nino is deputy director and curator of news service. The given position provides for determination of information policy of the channel, together with me. This means Nino will supervise the given direction.
- Will she also make a program?
I’m not sure. Politmeter will probably be closed down in the form it is now. Still, we will make the final decision on the given issue together with trainers that will work on content with us.
- There have been talks since summer 2013 that Maestro was facing financial problems; that there were problems with issuing salaries. Due to that you even dismissed part of staff. As far as I know you still have salary debts to pay. Why does the channel that is on third place by revenues among broadcasters have this problem?
We are followed by a line of problems that Maestro has had due to certain unsuccessful projects of improper planning. We consider this as Maesto was a small television with protest-content programs and now it has turned into large Company. Maestro is no just Maestro; Maestro is Maestro 24 and two radios. People who have gone through a lot of problems are now facing serious challenges called a big holding in which we make mistakes and learn on our mistakes. That is why these problems are reasoned only by this. As rating rises we grow as professions, as managers of serious company, so we will by all means solve all the problems.
Maestro was an interesting channel for advertisement clients last year. This year we see this all in figures. Maestro has approximately 400% growth in ratings and shares second-third place with Imedi. I hope very much that when advertisement budget will be distributed Maestro will fairly receive the share that it has in ratings. This will be enough to realize the plans that we have. At this stage we do not plan to purchase mega shows and mega projects, not because we cannot afford it but because we believe it is not Maestro’s niche.
We will manage to sustain ourselves and Maestro will show everyone that the claim that television is not profitable in Georgia is not true; furthermore that nobody has forgiven a 26-million debt to Maestro. Television that has been forgiven millions of debt has the right to say that it works for profit. For Maestro that has not been forgiven a 26-million debt, working for profit will be a far more ambitious step.
I’m now aware if you know that Dato Gogichaishvili and his Night Show Studio have taken over Maestro 24 and he will make an entertainment channel together with this team. This will be an innovation too.
- In what form has the Night Show Studio taken over Maestro 24?
Dato Gogichaishvili will be the Director of the TV-Company. Night Show Stuio has several founders and David Gogichaishvili is one of them. Maestro 24 founders are the same as of Maestro and they have partnership agreement with Dato Gogichaishvili. We will be partners. We are broadcasting throughout Georgia via cable. They have ideas and already made products. This will be an absolutely new, different format entertainment channel which will not have prime-time and less watchable time. Programs are 5-5 minute and are repeated with certain periodicity.
- How will it be associated with Maestro?
Name may change. Dato will make his own channel (within Maestro 24 license) and in parallel he will make projects for Maestro. He has been my consultant for two months already. Dato is a professional. I listened to his advises before and furthermore now. Despite my 12-year journalistic experience I’m still new in this field.
- Does this mean 24-hour information channel has not justified itself?
In order to make 24-hour news there must be a coinciding environment and another thing – this needs big resources. Allocating this resource to two channels either means low-quality content, or twice as expensive product.
- Do you agree on your decisions with the channel founders and do they interfere with your work?
Whey they proposed me to head Maestro we agreed that the Board of Founders will make strategic decisions and I will decide upon important issues underway in the television. This may be adding or closing down a program. I do this by agreement with them; when it is about hiring or dismissing an anchor I consult with them. In other cases I make decisions independently.
As for visual side, channel branding, presents’ outfits, context of non-political programs – in these issues I will always consult Maka Asatiani (co-founder of Maestro). As for Maka’s husband Kote Gogelia, I often consult with him on financial and management issues. Kote Gogelia is a very strong finance specialist, which I cannot say about myself. Kote is also a very experienced manager; he knows management, how to build a structure and I consult with him about this. The same with Mamuka Glonti. I mean it depends on me; they interfere with my work to the extent I need it.
- Media organizations, including TV-Company Maestro have problem with labor contracts. With the coming into force of the new labor code do you plan to settle the given issue?
We will have long-term contracts starting January – 1 or 1+1 year contracts. At first there will be test period. Of course we consider the new labor code and have already consulted our lawyer on this. I was thinking to myself that the given Labor Code is a dream of Rosa Luxembourg as employer’s rights are not considered in many aspects.
For example I wanted to write in the contract that a person who works for us must pay a large penalty in case of going to another channel. I have signed a contract like this when I worked for Imedi before. Still, such an article is against the new labor code so now I do not know how to protect myself from my journalist not being recruited by other channels. By the way Maestro faced such problems in August when mass recruitment of journalists took place. I must have some mechanism to protect myself from such cases and I do not have it now. I still obey the labor code proposed by the government.
- What will be the biggest goal of Maestro during next 1-2 years?
I do not want to seem an excessively ambitious person, but my goal is to fight for being first. I do not want to the second honorable place; furthermore if we consider that Maestro is a many times victorious television. I believe the given television achieved the biggest victory during last one year, when it proved that after elections it did not become anyone’s satellite and apologetic.
- There were rumors that Bidzina Ivanishvili financed Maestro…
Of course he did. It was so and nobody tried to hide it. Which other channels were funded by others nobody else wants to admit unlike us, so I’m very free in this also. I have ambition to address all those who come here to work or are already here that the fight is only for the first place. Maestro deserves it by its history and I am glad that I have taken responsibility for such a television.