Parliamentary working group, established on January 6 under the Legal Issues Committee and tasked to table amendments on the law on broadcasting, held its first session on January 21.
The working group pinpointed the topics that have been proposed by 13 staff members of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) on December 19, concerning the division of competencies between GPB’s nine-member board of trustees and the director general, the rule of electing the board of trustees, etc.
“We talked on several issues that create legal deficiencies and problems [in the law on broadcasting]. This relates to internal procedures [of GPB], be it with respect to the division of competencies and the rule of electing the board of trustees. Proposals have been tabled on many of these issues, all of which will be covered by the working group. We will move on to discussing the content on our next meeting. More experts will be invited and the group will draft specific changes,” Eka Beselia, chair of the Parliamentary Legal Issues Committee said after the meeting on January 21.
Beselia added that their main objective is to “clarify the “goal of the Public Broadcaster’s work,” so that it serves the public interest “in an independent, unbiased and impartial manner.”
According to GPB staff’s proposal, the authors consider that the competencies and responsibilities between the board of trustees and the director general are not “clearly divided” and that the former takes precedence in matters of management, since it has the right to amend the budget and the statute independently from the director general.
The authors argue that these legal norms contradict "the fundamental principles" of the board of trustees, since “it [simultaneously] becomes the decision-maker and the supervisor of its own decisions,” instead of just supervising the work of the director general.
“This paralyzes the work of the broadcaster and carries the potential for permanent disagreement between the management and the board of trustees,” Giorgi Chartolani, one of the authors, told the Legal Issues Committee members on January 6.
Irina Putkaradze, member of the board of trustees, told the press after the session on January 21 that she hoped “to reach a consensus” through “constructive” dialogue and added that the board will not “take any step that will weaken it.” “[We agree] that the competencies should be divided and we have been working on this in the board of trustees,” Putkaradze added.
The Republican Party of Georgia has negatively assessed the GPB’s proposal, saying that its adoption will be “a step backwards” in terms of media transparency and accountability. “The proposed amendments envisage increasing the competencies of the director general at the expense of decreasing the competencies of the board of trustees,” the party’s January 17 statement reads.
“The highest governing body of the public broadcaster is the board of trustees, which has a high legislative legitimacy and is entitled to oversee the director general. The major goal of such division is that, on the one hand, the board of trustees should be able to make decisions if necessary, and on the other hand, to prevent the director general from concentrating excess power,” the statement added.
The board of trustees elected GPB’s new director general on January 6. Vasil Maglaperidze, former lawmaker and governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti region in 2005-2008, who most recently worked for GDS TV, owned by former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s family, became the new director for a six-year term.