Parliamentary chairman, Davit Bakradze, reiterated on July 19 that the authorities would “encourage” keeping of ‘must-carry/must-offer’ rules beyond election day, but also reaffirmed that they were against of keeping this obligation as legally binding after the elections.
Parliament passed on June 29 with its final reading amendment to the election code obligating cable providers to transmit television channels with news programs during pre-election period – that is at least sixty days before the voting day. President Saakashvili signed amendment into law on July 16.
The move means that about 170,000 subscribers to dozens of cable providers across the country will be able to receive during the pre-election period three Tbilisi-based television stations – Kavkasia TV, Maestro TV and Channel 9 (the latter owned by Georgian Dream leader Bidzina Ivanishvili’s wife). The legally binding obligation to carry these channels will, however, expire just before the election day. The legally binding obligation to carry these channels will, however, expire just before the election day and the authorities say that keeping the same legal obligation on private companies beyond the election day would be redundant meddling by the state in this sector.
In a statement on July 18 a group of Tbilisi-based ambassadors welcomed introduction of ‘must-carry/must-offer’ rules “as a very positive initiative to provide a large part of the Georgian population with a more diverse range of information sources.” The Ambassadorial Working Group, however, also encouraged the authorities “to continue exploring the possibilities for the application of the ‘must-carry, must-offer’ obligations beyond election-day.”
Asked about this issue on July 19, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze said, that the state “cannot constantly meddle in private businesses affairs.”
“But I also want to reiterate, that we will promote and encourage all the cable operators and TV channels to keep cooperation which they will build during pre-election period [when must-carry will be legally binding]. So I do not expect that the agreement reached during the pre-election period will be broken down in a single day,” Bakradze said.
On July 19 the ruling party announced that it was accepting broader set of principles for political parties, offered by a coalition of civil society and media organizations, This Affects You Too, and by doing so it has actually also expressed readiness to agree on ensuring keeping ‘must-carry’ rules beyond election day. One of seventeen points, outlined in This Affects You Too proposal, says that the authorities should “ensure the public access to diverse information in all possible and lawful manner, which also implies unrestricted access to different TV channels on the day of elections as well as the subsequent period.” The ruling party offered to combine these seventeen points with those four principles which it had tabled last week and to make it a single code of conduct for political parties – the move has been hailed by representatives from This Affects You Too; but the Georgian Dream opposition coalition, led by Bidzina Ivanishvili still seems to be hesitant to join the declaration and the fate of this code of conduct remains unclear as for now.