Georgians have a tremendous appetite for news with 84% of respondents watching TV news every day and most viewers do not seem to be uncritical news consumers, according to the comprehensive research of the Georgian media.
The research made by Caucasus Research Resource Centers with the assistance of the European Union, was made public this week at a European Commission-organized conference on media freedom in Tbilisi.
The research is based on the public opinion survey of 1,768 respondents in Georgia conducted in October, as well as on interviews in focus groups; media monitoring component of main television stations conducted in April-May and September-October and interviews with journalists, media managers and academics specializing in media.
According to the survey Georgians are avid consumers of news, with 84% of respondents watching TV news every day, most for between an hour and two hours. Although TV stations remain the major source of information, newspapers and radios do play a significant role and the internet is gaining traction with 12% of respondents accessing the net daily, according to the research.
Rustavi 2 TV is by far the most popular in Georgia with 79% of respondents watching its news broadcasts every day. According to the research there is certain ambivalence about Rustavi 2 TV with 59% of respondents saying they trust its news to at least some extent, but 51% also saying that its news reflects the interests of the government.
Two other national TV stations Imedi and public TV’s First Channel are considered as pro-government by 33% and 51% of respondents, respectively and in case of Imedi 60% of respondents say they trust its news to at least some extent.
Two television stations, which mainly broadcast in the capital city, Tbilisi, Kavkasia and Maestro, in contrast, are viewed by most of the respondents as supportive to opposition – 68% and 50% of Tbilisi respondents, respectively.
Based on media monitoring component, the study shows that viewers can see radically different versions of events portrayed on three national television stations (Rustavi 2; Imedi and public TV’s First Channel) as compared with Kavkasia and Maestro.
Being aware of potential biased reporting on television stations, many news consumers feel they can make up for that by watching a variety of stations, according to the research. However, outside the capital it is much more difficult to access channels with editorial policies significantly different from those of national TV channels.
The survey also indicates that viewers in Georgia show a clear appetite for investigative reporting with 75% of respondents saying they would like to see investigative reports on healthcare, the courts, elections, the protection of freedom of speech and 64% saying they would also like to see relations between politicians and the Georgian Orthodox Church investigated.
While Maestro and Kavkasia television stations air investigative reports, mainly produced by independent studios, not related with those stations, investigative reports are not run by the national broadcasters. Gia Chanturia, the general director of the public broadcaster, made a pledge to launch investigative reports when he was running for the post – the promise, which has yet to deliver.
According to the research, compared with the general public, media professionals are much more uneasy about the state of the Georgian media.
Media professionals see the TV landscape as more polarized than the rest of the population. While 51% in public opinion survey said they thought Rustavi 2 TV served the government’s interests, that view was held by 94% of media professionals.
They also believe that the public is much more distrustful of the Georgian TV stations than is actually the case. While 59% of the surveyed in opinion poll say they trust Rustavi 2 TV news at least to some extent, media professionals thought that figure was just 28%.
The survey also shows that about 47% of respondents partially or fully trust the media in Georgia, compared with 43% in Azerbaijan and 39% in Armenia.