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Public TV Head Downplays his Deputy’s Slur Remarks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 15 Jan.'09 / 14:59

Levan Kubaneishvili, the general director of the public TV, although said that use of a disparaging word for a male homosexual by his deputy Gia Chanturia “might not be correct,” he also tried to defend him by saying that the remarks were used “in a private conversation” and thus there was no need “to run after his words.”
 
The matter in question involves an on-the-record discussion, which was organized by the Georgian monthly magazine Tskheli Shokoladi (Hot Chocolate) and dedicated to the re-branding of the public TV. During the discussion, transcript of which was published in the magazine’s December issue, chief producer of the public broadcaster and a deputy head of the television station, Gia Chanturia, was asked to name a program in the public TV’s overhauled programming designed for minority groups. Chanturia responded: “For pederasts [the term used in Georgian as a derogative form for gays]?” He was then asked if there was any anchor on the TV who represented any minority group. Chanturia responded: “Should a cripple be an anchor? Do you mean that a homosexual should be an anchor of a program about homosexuals?”

The remarks, which up to now were only mainly discussed on the Georgian internet forums, were raises by the public TV itself on January 14, in particular by its weekly program Accent, which featured invited guest a commentator Lasha Bakradze, editor-in-chief of Tskheli Shokoladi, Shorena Shaverdashvili and public TV head, Levan Kubaneishvili. The program, hosted by journalist Eka Kvesitadze, was mainly dedicated to the discussion of the re-branded public TV, but in the end the Chanturia’s remarks were also raised. 

“In this particular case we should take into consideration the situation and the context in which these remarks were made,” Kubaneishvili said. “Gia [Chanturia] is an emotional person… Maybe [these remarks] were put not in a correct form.”

When he was pressed by an anchor and other two guests of the program on the term itself used by Chanturia, Kubaneishvili responded: “Please don’t run after words; these remarks were not said in live air, it was said in a private conversation and any person has the right to use terms which he wants to use in a private conversation.”

After he was told by other two guests that it was on-the-record discussion and no way a private conversation, Kubaneishvili responded: These [remarks] do not represent the position of the public TV… We all have our personal attitudes towards these people – for example I am absolutely tolerant towards these people… Moreover, we would be very interested if a homosexual person agrees to speak publicly on our TV – it would be a shocking for the society; such a program would attract large number of viewers.”

A human rights advocacy group Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) said in a statement on January 13 that “use of such terms by the public TV’s senior official… will fail to deliver with goals and mission, the public TV has undertaken.”

The public TV’s code of conduct lists the word ‘pederast’ among the terms, which are banned from use.

As a result of re-branding the public TV has changed the name from the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) to the First Channel; with its over two-dozen of new programs, with many of them entertaining ones, the public TV’s management boast with “significantly increased” rating. The public TV currently has more political talk shows than any other Georgian television station, including a bi-weekly First Topic; weekly Accent and weekly Political Week, hosted by journalist Inga Grigolia. The First Channel also has four news bulletins per day and three on weekends.

Public Defender, Sozar Subari, in December requested the public TV to broadcast investigative reports produced by independent TV studios – Monitor and Reporter; the public TV, however, declined citing that those investigative reports were neither produced, nor commissioned by the public broadcaster. In a statement released in late December, Subari said that although formally a team of investigative reporters was employed by the public TV, the team was “not allowed to produce investigative reports.”

“The First Channel, however, spares no expense to produce entertainment programming in order to make us believe that ‘life is much more beautiful’ than in reality,” Subari said in reference to the public TV’s new entertaining talk show Life is Beautiful.

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