One can come across the same message ‘Everything Starts with Question’ at the entrance, newsroom or meeting room of Channel 9. In a few days the news TV company Channel 9 is going to launch broadcasts having revived keen public interest. Inner broadcasts have been on for a few weeks now. Journalists go out for reporting and the news service is filled up with a noisy atmosphere typical of a television. The TV company will launch its full operation in spring.
According to Channel 9 director Kakha Bekauri they don’t want to face numerous defects. “Even though we are launching trial broadcasts at the initial stage the quality ought to be high.”
After publicizing the purchase of Channel 9 (Igrika LLC) by the spouse of the opposition party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili rumors sparkled. The channel’s management repeatedly accused the authorities of damaging technical equipments to hinder the launch of broadcasts. Cable companies were also said to be refusing to include Channel 9 into broadcasting service package.
Request for inclusion, Kakha Bekauri said, had been sent out to all Georgian cable companies, but the positive response was received from the satellite TV MagtiSat and cable company Global TV. The latter is owned by the brother of Bidzina Ivanishvili. Other companies did not event sent the letters of refusal back. Therefore Bekauri is going to start direct talks with them. Moreover the Channel 9 TV satellite signal is already available through TurkSat.
“The part of the population, which makes up around 20 percent of dwellers in the regions, having access to Georgian channels through satellite will have a possibility to watch our TV company too,” Kakha Bekauri stressed.
Channel 9, he said, will be a TV company similar to FOX NEWS. The programming will be made up of news programs and talk shows. The coverage area will include regions too. Outside capital up to 40 bureaus, with 45 camera crews employed, will be set up nationwide.
Kakha Bekauri thinks national broadcasters operating today provide no coverage of regional news, while a greater part of regional media is being financed from local self-government bodies.
“Therefore we decided to set up a huge network to aggressively cover the events ongoing in regions. We are a news channel and that’s our top responsibility,” Kakha Bekauri added. Thus far 22 bureaus have been opened, said Kakha Bekauri reporting to Media.ge.
The staff is not yet fully manned. The selection of journalists is carried out gradually. Selected candidates having undergone two-week training are being employed on probation. Recruitment process is especially complex in the regions. Quite often the journalists with no TV experience are being employed. Trainings are provided in Tbilisi, trained staff continue work in the regions. Qualification-related problem is in place not in the regions but the capital city as well.
“Due to the damage inflicted we are conducting broadcasts through hand-made equipments. We have already purchased additional equipments. We have worked out a mechanism that will enable us to prevent damage at customs. After the arrival of equipments we’ll launch full operation in summer and employ the rest of the staff,” the Channel 9 director said.
During trial broadcasts news programs will be on air three times per day. The news programs at 15:00 and 18:00 hrs will be presented by Sopho Chakvetadze who used to work for Channel 9 earlier too. The main news program at 22:00 hrs will be presented by Natia Lazashvili, former Rustavi 2 face for years.
The news service is being headed by Tamar Rukhadze who used to hold the same position at Maestro TV and Rustavi 2.
Following American consultants’ recommendations the Channel 9 reporters are differentiated. Senior reporter will be conducting calls in and will be the image of the company. TV stories will be produced by reporters with the help of assistant reporters.
“We tried to select utmost experienced and competent journalists since their voices are to be heard through TV air,” says Tamar Rukhadze citing Malkhaz Chkadua from the Liberal magazine, military journalist Giorgi Tskhvitava, Davit Akhvlediani and Imeda Darsalia as example. The latter previously used to work for Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press service, as well a TV company Maestro and GNS Studio.
Starting work for Channel 9, Malkhaz Chkadua said, was a new challenge to him and the staff employed at the TV company – the guarantee for independence.
“When at talks with the management I told them if they were intending to conduct propaganda for any political force then there was no place for me. I was provided a firm guarantee, therefore I took this step,” said Malkhaz Chkadua reporting to Media.ge. For internal broadcast, he said, the TV stories full of criticism to Georgian Dream have been produced several times.
“There are no shaky topics for us. The attitude I witness from the management offers me guarantee for further development likewise,” Chkadua added.
Giorgi Tskhivitava, who mainly works on security issues, says in case f decrease of independence he will quit the TV company.
“15 camera crews in total are working for Channel 9 on a daily basis.
American consultants too are working in the newsroom. One of them, Derwin Johnson says the viewers too are responsible for the quality of independence of the TV company.
“When you know that your audience is critical, you behave otherwise. All of the US-based TV companies are influenced by particular figures, owners. The editorial office itself is responsible for maintaining independence,” says Derwin Johnson helping journalists with planning TV stories.
Starting from summer Bekauri is planning to introduce a new format for news. We will be no longer producing a particular news program with the sequence of TV stories familiar to the presenter.
“The TV programming will be divided into blocks and as soon as the TV story is ready in the newsroom it will be directly delivered to the presenter. The information will be provided unstoppably. The newsroom’s so called automatized system will enable us to do that,” says Bekauri. To study this technology the chief of the channel is panning to retrain producers and technical personnel.
“Ultimately we’ll have the stories delivered with more promptness and with higher quality, which is essential to the news channel,” Kakha Bekauri stressed. News programs in a new format to be introduced will be broadcast from 10 am to 6 pm.
During trial broadcasts Gogi Akhalkatsi’s talk show will be on air at 10 pm. The talk show will be totally presenter-based. Different segments of a single topic will be discussed by dissimilar respondents. The presenter’s text will be focused on, the program will include videos too.
Within few months time more personified programs will be added to the programming. The talk shows of the kind, Bekauri says, is the best way to attract viewers through minimum expenses.
“We are not competing with the channels offering entertainment programs. To gain high rating in the news space is essential,” Bekauri pointed out.
The political puppet satire In+fact, to be produced by Shalva Ramishvili studio, will be on air at 11 pm.
The public council hasn’t been yet set up to secure the independence of the channel. The decision was changed and instead of three Georgians the council will be including five foreign and one or two Georgian specialists. Particular functions and members of the council are yet unknown. Along with the protection of independence of the channel, says Bekauri, the council will provide the monitoring of then channel.
At the very beginning of TV broadcasts, says the TV chief, the advertising service will be launched. Georgian mobile operator Magti has already expressed its will to place ads at yet unopened TV company.
Kakha Bekauri says the reports on high salaries of the Channel 9 staff are exaggerated. The fees are corresponding to the market.
“I know that some Rustavi 2 employees wanted to move to our TV company but having learnt the amount of salary they changed their minds,” says Kakha Bekauri reporting to Media.ge. The TV director, he says, is not going to win the staff over from this company, but in case Rustavi 2 technical staff wish so their candidatures will be discussed over. None of the Real TV employees have joined Channel 9, Bekauri said.
Due to the financial loss as a result of damaged equipments Bekauri finds it hard to name the amount that has been spent to set up a new TV company but the amount, he alleges, is much less then several millions. He supposes the expenditure will go up at the very launch of broadcasts.