Tamara Rost, Director of Programming & Promotion and Antony Knopps, Asst. News Director, 13 abc Toledo (OH) paid a visit to the Poti-based TV company 9th Wave.
Throughout a week they have been sharing experience and providing hands-on assistance to the Georgian counterparts. For the third year now the 13 abc representatives’ visit has been made possible within the framework of Georgia’s Media Partnership Program being implemented by IREX thanks to the financial backing of US government and with the support of the local embassy.
The 9th Wave partners left Georgia last weekend. Ahead of the departure Media.Ge obtained an interview from American counterparts.
- IREX program is multi-faceted, arrangement of news and marketing services as well as technical support is being concerned. What works are you implementing now in the framework of your visit?
Tamara – During the week we provided general information about our television – the way we work, what programs we are running. We also discussed the importance of marketing and rating and the extent of importance of boosting viewers’ awareness about the television. We worked with management and sales teams, we developed some advertising packages and readied them for the meetings with customers.
Anthony – As regards news we attended their editorial staff meetings, discussed the ways of arranging a news program, TV stories. We did compare their news programs to ours, we offered them assistance in terms of the improvement of visuality and content. Our goal is to help them deliver local news in a quality manner and produce a good program cost-effectively.
- Ms Tamara, it’s your third visit to Georgia. Were your previous visits organized within the framework of the program?
Tamara – Yes, previously too I had arrived within the scope of the same program. Our TV company was then partnered with Guria TV based in Ozurgeti. We visited them twice and two of their teams visited us in the States. Upon the completion of the events set forth in the project we continue communication with them, this time we intentionally arrived a day earlier to pay a visit to Guria TV staff. We consider them our friends. Visiting them we discussed digital switchover, election coverage and overviewed the developments at the company in the past year.
- From your viewpoint what are the similarities and general characteristics between the companies you have been working with?
Tamara – Working with both of the companies has been a pleasure to us, providing for the enthusiasm their employees show to work. They are not just caring about keeping audience updated, they are also trying to get themselves engaged into community life, help improve their living conditions, even though their financial technical and human resources are scarce. In Ozurgeti, for instance, where advertising market is extremely downgraded, television needs help either from ad customers, local companies, government or locals.
Our TV company gifted them two companies that had been out of use. Thanks to those computers the television started producing three times more pieces of news and editing time was halved. 9th Wave owns the only video camera, the more and better equipments they get the high-quality product they will to offer viewers.
- Are you going to hand over equipments to 9th Wave?
Tamara – To tell the truth in the States too we lack the equipments we need to operate in a proper manner. This project does not provide for technical assistance. Of course, we are trying our best to help the partner. On our way back we might analyze what is going to be better for the company – image campaign or handover of equipments. We cannot foresee that. But if needed we’ll try to lend a hand whether it is provided for in the program or not.
- Regional TV companies have recently launched active online broadcasting, dissemination of content through networks. Some of them carried out website rebranding. Are you providing assistance to the Georgian partners in this regard?
Tamara – Exactly today we were discussing these issues. 9th Wave is right now developing its website. The new website will be a way better than the present one. We offered them some recommendations – we made a comparison between our website and theirs and discussed the way ours is arranged and what would be a more favorable way to run a website. In addition to the website we overviewed their Facebook and Twitter pages and enlightened them on the difference between the information posted on those online platforms and their characteristics. Moreover, we discussed some free applications to be used to deliver information to the viewers in a timely manner. Hopefully, it will be conducive to both online sales as well as their journalism activities and it will be helpful in terms of monitoring in order to figure out who is watching 9th Wave online.
- The scale of US-based regional televisions must be different from the scale of Georgian regional televisions. I mean the audience, what would be the differences and similarities between your television and 9th Wave. When working with Georgian counterparts do you provide for audience when focusing on marketing-related issues?
Tamara – I would like to point out that the TV market in the States is measured according to the number of households residing in their coverage zones. Our TV, for instance, broadcasts for approximately 400 households. The 9th Wave audience is made up of 300 thousand households and there is no big difference. The market overseas is different yes, but our TV company owns few more regional televisions in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York, some of those companies are smaller than ours. Nevertheless, our television and 9th Wave, in terms of audience, are in similar conditions. Despite market and audience the quality and content is that matters most to us and also how well you can deliver it to the viewers.
- What direction are you now working on? Let me specify – marketing, news and web.
Anthony – We are essentially working with the news production team, journalists, cameramen, and producers on the production of TV stories and sequence, visual side, norms of ethics, balance; the way to report, responsibility when using social media, news production rules; Arranging relations with local authorities to better use them as sources.
- What is going to be the next stage?
Tamara – Having arrived in the States we’ll start getting ready for the 9th Wave’s follow-up visit. Two teams, each manned with four participants, will pay us two visits. Presumably, we’ll arrive in Georgia for the fourth time in spring 2015. Our formal relations will formally come to an end. But, similarly to Guria TV, we are going to keep in touch with this company via Skype, E-mail, Facebook. We also do hope to work with another Georgian TV company.
Media.Ge also interviewed the Chief of the program Maya Mateshvili.
- When did the new cycle of the program start and when is it due to end? As far as I am concerned it’s two-year period.
Maya Mateshvili – Georgia’s Media Partnership Program is made possible with the financial backing of US government with the support of US Embassy in Georgia. The program was launched in 2011 – Gurjaani TV and Channel 25 were the first participants, followed by Akhaltsikhe-based Channel 9, TV company Guria, 9th Wave, Borjomi TV and Kutaisi-based radio Dzveli Kalaki in 2012. This is the final phase of the program to draw to a close in 2015. However the Embassy announced a contest anew and we applied on behalf of IREX and we do hope for victory. Regardless of a winner the new project will run for at least a year. According to the terms and conditions of a recently announced contest national broadcasters too are eligible to participate in the media partnership program. I am not sure though what the national broadcaster would imply given that following digital switchover all of the channels will be made into national broadcasters.
- You made a mention of digital broadcasting, from 2015 Georgia is ought to switch to digital broadcasting. Is that provided for in the program and do American consultants take it into consideration?
With our televisions we work in every direction, digital switchover is one of those. E.g. American partners have brought the samples on the way they used to conduct public outreach campaign during digital transition period. The campaign implied instructions on the installation of receivers. Toledo-based TV company representatives shared their expertise – in particular, the time required for the digital switchover, expenses, equipments purchased, processes the television went through, legislation applied therein, and preparatory work to help the process run smoothly.