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Public TV Criticized for ‘Ignoring’ Constitution Discussions
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Sep.'10 / 14:47

Parliamentary minority called on the Georgian public broadcaster’s board of trustees to consider responsibility of the broadcaster’s top management for “ignoring” ongoing discussions on the proposed new constitutional model and for not airing a single TV talk-show or debates on the matter.

“We have been saying that August was not the best time for public discussions on such an important issue like constitutional reform. Majority of the population is not aware about the substance of the proposed constitutional amendments… and the reason of that is that there were no TV talk-shows and debates,” MP Levan Vepkhvadze, a vice-speaker of the parliament from Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) said at a parliamentary session on September 14.

Georgian television stations usually suspend their regular political talk shows during the news lull of summer, particularly in August.

MP Vepkhvadze said that the public broadcaster had “a special responsibility” in this regard and cited law on broadcasting, which obliges the public broadcaster to regularly air programs on important political developments.

He claimed that the public broadcaster violated this law and its general-director, Gia Chanturia, should be held responsible.

In October, 2008 the Parliament amended law on broadcasting and obliged the public broadcaster to air “every week” programs involving “political discussions on the pressing political developments in the country.”

Lawmakers from the ruling party dismissed the parliamentary minority’s criticism of the public broadcaster saying that no law had been violated. They cited ongoing programming on the public broadcaster’s Second Channel, which allocates airtime to the opposition parties providing non edited and live coverage of their statements and press conferences.

Unlike the public broadcaster’s main, First Channel, its Second Channel does not provide nationwide broadcasting and its coverage is mainly limited with the capital city, Tbilisi, and its surroundings.

“The public broadcaster has not violated any law, because its Second Channel was working intensively during the summer period,” MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling party said at the parliamentary session.

Parliamentary majority leader, MP Petre Tsiskarishvili, said that law was not violated because the law was not stipulating the public broadcaster to air “political debates”; he cited the wording of the provision according to which the public broadcaster should provide “political discussions on the pressing political developments”; MP Tsiskarishvili said that the Second Channel was providing such opportunity.

Vice-Speaker of the Parliament from the ruling party, Mikheil Machavariani, responded MP Vepkhvadze’s criticism by telling him: “How many pages are in the proposed draft [of constitutional amendments]? – I think 10 pages; so those who wanted could have read it.”

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