Gurjaani TV station hosted representatives of US-based WDRB Fox 41 TV channel. That TV channel is based in Louisville, Kentucky and its audience amounts to about 1.5 million viewers. It's a quite moderate figure for the United States, but thanks to professionalism and good management it's a successful regional TV station.
Production Manager of WDRP David Callan and Graphics Design Artist Robert Potaczala visited Georgia under Georgian Media Partnership Program (GMPP) carried out by IREX.
As a result of preliminary discussions with the representatives of Gurjaani TV station the parties decided that graphics, 3D animations, studio lighting and visuals as well as shooting and editing of promos were the weak points of Gurjaani TV channel. The long-term goal of Executive Director of Gurjaani TV channel Levan Aleksishvili is improvement of the TV station's visuals and attracting the attention of Tbilisi-based viewers through cable networks, which will enable it to attract additional advertisement and incomes. Eventually Gurjaani TV station plans to become fully self-sufficient.
According to the American visitors, Gurjaani TV station decides what its problems are, they define what their priorities are at any given moment. A similar project was implemented in Ukraine two years ago and as David Callan says it was quite successful. The project was beneficial for both parties and when WDRB received the same offer from Georgia they immediately consented.
They prepared a plan before coming to Georgia, but after arriving in Gurjaani they saw a different picture. According to David Callan, such TV stations are distinguished for their ability to achieve maximum results with minimal resources. "US public TV channels and Georgian regional TV channels are somehow similar to each other in that regard. Both are oriented at local viewers, both are funded by donors and neither of them are self-sufficient". - David Callan said "It's a wonder that these small TV channels manage to operate with such limited resources".
As for the local level of expertise, Robert Potaczala says he already knew about
the resources and equipment that Gurjaani TV had before coming to Georgia. "Gurjaani TV station uses the kind of computers that we had 4 years ago. Despite the fact that their equipment is pretty weak, it's still possible to create good visuals even with that equipment" - the American Graphics Design Artist said.
However, according to Potaczala, sometimes the editors and photographers didn't even know that their equipment and software was able to perform certain functions. "They asked me what kind of computer they should buy in order to use basic editing software as well as After Effects. I told them their editing computer was already capable of performing those functions".
Daily news promos, program promos, crawl and logo - these were the main details that needed to be improved.
"I told them news promo should be different from the promos of educational and analytical shows" Robert Potaczala said "news promos are more dynamic and mobile, whereas other types of programs need more creative promos and therefore sometimes it takes several weeks to shoot and edit them".
David Callan took part in the shooting of Georgian regional TV station's promo himself. He says he was always giving tips to photographers and editors on lighting, shooting angles, framing etc. during the shooting process. Besides, during the working process they found out that photographers recorded sound too high, which distorted the sound quality. However, as the consultants are saying all the problems were tackled during the training process.
One of the indicators of productiveness of this visit was the fact that the partnership was mutually beneficial. Employees of Gurjaani TV station were looking forward to that training. "Interest was immense. I would single out one photographer in particular, who after learning something new one day would go home and practice it at home the whole night, maybe prepare an animation on his own and then next morning he would come back with the products of his experiments and new questions" - Robert Potaczala says "this kind of enthusiasm is always bound to lead to success and I believe that the TV station is really moving in the right direction".
The goal of Georgian Media Partnership Program is to support development of free media in Georgia through establishing long-term partnerships between Georgian and American media outlets, professional exchanges, individual consultations and sharing experiences. The program enabled the two selected Georgian regional TV stations (Gurjaani TV and Batumi-based Channel 25) to improve their journalism, equipment and business/media management skills.
According to Head of GMPP program Elene Aladashvili, there will be 4 visits for each selected TV station. Georgian and American colleagues will visit their partner TV channels for one week twice during the year. In October Georgian TV professionals will visit USA, where they will learn the specifics of American journalism, work in local newsrooms and take part in a week long practical trainings. Besides, as Elene says, this project is not only about sharing experiences and knowledge, but also learning about each other's cultures, making new friends and establishing long-term partnerships.
"Georgians were in USA once and they still keep in touch with their American colleagues through social networks". - Aladashvili said.