On July 11 Maestro TV co-founder and shareholder Mamuka Glonti said Maestro TV will be off air provided the court seizes TV company accounts.
“We are not going to pay the fine even if it costs us the suspension of broadcasts. We prefer to have the television cut off rather than to obey the court’s illicit ruling,” said Mamuka Glonti in the Maestro TV program Subjective Opinion aired on the evening of July 11.
On July 11 the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia motioned to the court over the seizure of satellite dish antennas imported by Maestro TV. According to the July 11 statement released by the Prosecutor’s Office in the course of the investigation into voter-buying through free installation of TV antennas it has been found on June 30, 2012 that following the order by the management of Elita Burji, the company affiliated with the Georgian dream political coalition TV company Maestro imported to Georgia a large amount of antennas.
The Prosecutor’s Office alleged Maestro was going to install antennas to the population free of charge like in case of Global Contact Consulting.
The Prosecutor’s Office reached the decision on the seizure of Global Contact Consulting-owned uninstalled antennas on June 21. For the handover of Global TV antennas according to a 10-year installment plan Tbilisi City Court imposed a fine of up to GEL 126 mln on Bidzina Ivanishvili, but the Court of Appeals halved the given amount. The court believed Global TV acted through Ivanishvili’s funding.
Speaking in the TV program Mamuka Glonti said Maestro is an independent TV company and is not expressing the interest of either party. Besides, he added, they managed to install the only antenna, and that symbolically.
Maestro is co-owned by Maka Asatiani who is well ff off enough to purchase 10,000 antennas, said Glonti.
According to official reports Maka Asatiani, the daughter of Kakhi Asatiani, formerly popular Georgian footballer. Maka Asatiani, currently living in Moscow, is Maestro TV’s 25-percent shareholder.
“10,000 satellite dish antennas cost maximum USD 50,000 while millions of investments have been made into Maestro. We are not making investments to have just Maestro guys watching us, our investments are aimed at having the Georgian population watching us,” said Glonti and added that the TV company is planning to install antennas by installments that will be profitable to the television.
“Nothing is being given away for free in Georgia, but the Tabula magazine, owned by Bokeria [Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the National Security Council of Georgia] said Mamuka Glonti.
Maestro TV being associated with the opposition holds the license for cable and satellite broadcasting but through cable channels it is mainly accessible in Tbilisi. Glonti repeatedly accused the authorities of pressure due to which regional providers refuse to carry Maestro TV since the latter is an alternative to the pro-governmental channels including Rustavi 2 and Imedi.
Must-carry rules, adopted by the Parliament, and scheduled to enter into force in the run up to elections won’t be counterbalanced with satellite broadcasting, said Glonti.
According to the amendments made to the Election Code cable companies shall be carrying, according to broadcasting zones, all of the TV companies from the announcement of the date of the elections up to the E-day.
Providers, Glonti says, operate in big cities and regional centers only, but in the villages there is “a huge amount” of dwellers having no access to cable channels and the only source of information to them is Imedi and Rustavi 2.
On July, 12 the day following Mamuka Glonti’s TV speech Maestro released a statement stating it is an independent private company whose only goal is to develop and expand its audience.
“The decision on the installation of satellite dish antennas is the TV company’s business plan and the management believes that through its obstruction the Prosecutor’s Office and court hinder the expansion and development of Maestro as a free media outlet and at the same time restricting the right of the society to have access to diverse information, which is a matter of serious concern two months prior to the elections,” reads the statement.
The addresses of the statement include media outlets, NGOs, diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia and international observers.