The Practice of Allocating Budgetary Funds for Advertising and Dissemination of Information in Media - 2021
The following report reflects the 2021 practice of allocating budgetary funds for the purpose of advertising and dissemination of information in media and is based on publicly available data of the State Procurement Agency, and, in selected cases, additional information requested from public agencies. To illustrate the editorial policies of media outlets that received budgetary contracts, the study also includes individual examples of media coverage.
The introductory part of the report summarizes the main findings; The main part dissects the practice of allocating budgetary contracts for the purpose of advertising and information dissemination according to different types of media - television, radio, online, print and social media. A separate chapter is devoted to the allocation of budgetary funds on social media, including contracts that obligate individual media outlets to post materials on various Facebook groups and pages. The last part deals with the editorial policies of those media outlets, which in some cases, carry homophobic and anti-Western content, and, in selected cases, are involved in pro-governmental coordinated campaigns aimed at discrediting its opponents.
Author: Mariam Pataridze
Research: Giorgi Rizhvadze
Data processing: Mariam Tsutskiridze
Editor: Tamar Kintsurashvili
Link: The Practice of Allocating Budgetary Funds for Advertising and Dissemination of Information in Media - 2021
Financial Transparency of Media - 2020
The following report on the financial transparency of media represents data of 2020. In order to illustrate the extent to which budgetary funding influences the editorial policy of the media or to observe the types of editorial policies the concerned media outlets pursue, it also discusses some examples of media coverage. Released by the Media Development Foundation (MDF) annually, the report explores, on the one hand, declared revenues of broadcast media and, on the other, the practice of allocating budgetary funds for advertising and dissemination of information in media outlets.
The introductory part of the report discusses key findings and regulations; the first part reviews financial revenues of broadcasters, whom the law obliges to file relevant declarations; the second part reviews the practice of allocating public funds for advertising and dissemination of information in various types of media outlets. A separate chapter analyzes social media spending, including budgetary contracts that oblige media outlets to disseminate information in various Facebook groups and pages. The concluding part is devoted to the practice of signing budgetary contracts with anti-Western, anti-disinformation, and hate speech media outlets, including some examples of anti-vaxx content.
Mariam Pataridze, Ani Kistauri
Financial Transparency of Media - 2019
The present report on financial transparency of the media includes data from 2019. The Media Development Foundation (MDF) releases its reports on financial transparency of the media annually to explore, on the one hand, declared revenues of broadcast media and on the other, the practice of allocating budgetary funds for advertising and dissemination of information in media outlets.
The introductory part of the report discusses key findings of the study and regulations; its first part reviews financial revenues of broadcasters, whom the law obliges to file relevant declarations; the second part reviews the practice of allocating public funds for advertising and dissemination of information in various types of media outlets. A separate chapter analyzes social media spending, including budget contracts with media outlets on dissemination of information in various Facebook groups and pages.
Link: Financial Transparency of Media - 2019
Financial Transparency of Media-2018
The Media Development Foundation (MDF) releases annual reports to explore the financial media environment – sources of media financing, including the practice of allocating budgetary funds for advertising and dissemination of information in media outlets.
The present report rests on the desk research, among them documents available in an electronic database of the State Procurement Agency and the National Communications Commission, also additional data requested from public agencies and information available in the public domain. Moreover, a qualitative analysis of media content was carried out by applying the principle of random sampling and based on the contracts between administrative bodies and media outlets. It aimed at clarifying what type of media content was financed from the budget.
The introductory part of the report discusses key findings of the study and regulations; its first part reviews financial revenues of broadcasters, whom the law obliges to file relevant declarations; the second part reviews the practice of allocating public funds for advertising and dissemination of information in media outlets, including media outlets inciting hate speech, fanning anti-Western sentiments and promoting Russian propaganda platforms. The third part of the report depicts practice of formalizing the interference in editorial independence in budget contracts.
Link: Financial Transparency of Media-2018
Financial Transparency of Media 2017. Final report
The intent behind the present study is to explore the financial revenues of media organizations as well as to probe the practice of allocating public funds for advertisement and dissemination of information in media outlets. The study mainly rests on the analysis of documents which included documentation accessible in the electronic database of state procurement agency and the National Communications Commission, also additional data requested from public entities and information available in the public domain. Moreover, a qualitative analysis of media content was carried out by applying the principle of random selection and based on the contracts entered into by and between administrative bodies and media outlets. The first part of the report discusses problems concerning the financial transparency of broadcast media, also the data on the revenues of broadcasters, which are publicly available at the time of writing this report; the second reviews the distribution of budgetary funds among TV channels to ensure the dissemination of advertisements and information; the third part explores whether the budgetary contracts imply the interference into editorial independence of media outlets and whether the media outlets observe professional standards that require the separation of financed materials from editorial content; the fourth part provides examples evidencing whether media outlets observed the professional standard of separating financed materials from editorial content during the 2017 local election campaign.
Authors: Mariam Pataridze
Editor: Tamar Kintsurashvili
Design: Mariam Tsutskiridze
Link: Financial Transparency of Media 2017. Final report
Pre-Election Financial Media Environment 2017
The intent behind the present study is to explore the financial revenues of media organizations as well as to probe the practice of allocating public funds for advertisement and dissemination of information in media outlets. The report is based on desk research of official information received from public institutions upon request, on accessible electronic data available at the web-portal of Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and State Procurement Agency's database, as well as media reports. The first part of the report reviews the financial transparency problems in broadcasting media; the second part is about the distribution of budgetary funds to the televisions with the aim of disseminating advertisement and information; the third part reflects the budgetary contracts with the media that disseminate hate speech, anti-Western sentiments and Russian propaganda; and the fourth part concerns the distribution of budgetary funds in regional televisions.
Authors: Mariam Pataridze
Editor: Tamar Kintsurashvili
Design: Mariam Tsutskiridze
Financial Transparency of Media, 2016
The intent behind the present study is to explore the financial revenues of media organizations as well as to probe the practice of allocating public funds for advertisement and dissamination of information in media outlets. The report is based on desk research of official information received from public institutions upon request, on accessible electronic data available at the web-portal of Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and State Procurement Agency's database, as well as media reports.
The first part reviews the declared revenues of broadcast media, followed by second part on the practice of allocation of public funds by budgetary organizations for the dissemination of information and advertising in media. The media outlets inciting hate speech and anti-Western sentiments and receiving budgetary contracts are presented separately. The report covers the period of 2016.
Practice of allocating budgetary resources among media for the release of information and advertisement
The goal of the present research is to study the practice and procedures of allocation of public funds to media outlets for the purpose of advertising and information support. The research also involves the findings of media monitoring aimed to demonstrate what type of information is financed from the budget and whether budgetary funds have an influence on media content; how much the standards set by advertising legislation, code of conduct and professional ethics are observed. The research also reviews the international practice and the forms of soft censorship after the example of various countries. The document provides recommendations on improving current shortcomings and using the materials financed by administrative authorities in a pre-election period. The guidelines related to soft censorship developed by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) have been taken into consideration in the process of developing the recommendations.
New Company to Enter TV Rating Market in 2016
The TV rating market will see the entry of a new company, Tri-Media Intelligence LLLC, an official licensee of the international company Kantar Media, to measure television audience. Since 2005 to date, TV audience has been measured by a single company, TVMR Georgia, which is an official licensee of the international company Nielsen. The TVMR Georgia caught public attention in February 2014, when the Revenue Service entered it to conduct a tax inspection. That move was harshly criticized by nongovernmental organizations as they seen in it an attempt to meddle in the advertising market.
According to the data of Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), in 2014, the revenues of broadcast media made up 91.9 million GEL, showing an increase of 23% (17.6 million GEL) compared to the corresponding 2013 indicator. The largest share of these revenues accounted for commercials (71.4%) and sponsorship (19.8%). Other revenues (sale of content and broadcast time, contributions, et cetera) comprised 8.8%.
According to the GNCC report, in 2014, the largest share of broadcast revenues, totaling 49.3%, accounted for Rustavi 2. The shares of other TV companies were the following: Imedi TV – 24.2%, Studio Maestro – 11.3%, GDS TV – 2.9%, Georgian Media Network – 2.7%. The total share of other broadcasters made up 9.5%.
However, after the introduction of new regulations on advertising, the data of TVMR Georgia has shown a downward trend in broadcast commercials with 37% decrease seen in April 2015 as compared to April of the previous year.
Clients of television audience measurement companies are TV companies as well as advertising agents and media sellers. TV companies need to know viewer ratings to schedule programs and attract commercials while advertising agents and media sellers need them to place commercials accordingly.
It is difficult to guess at this stage how the new actor will affect the market and which measurement company will be chosen by broadcasters to receive the service. According to our inquiries, only several TV companies have a clear answer to this question. As of now, 34 organizations use the service of TVMR Georgia whilst Tri-Media Intelligence intends to cooperate with 48 organizations though it refrains from naming them. Tri-Media Intelligence offers customers a panel of up to 600 households whereas TVMR plans to increase its current panel of 355 household to 450 households from January 2016.
Tri-Media Intelligence LLC was registered in the LEPL National Agency of Public Registry on 13 October 2014 and in the same month, made an announcement about its entry of the market as a licensee of international company Kantar Media. Owners of the company are Merab Pachulia and Giorgi Tevdorashvili with 50%-50% of its shares. Merab Paculia, for his part, is the owner of 70% of shares in the Georgian Opinion Research Business International, GORBI, a public opinion and market research firm.
The director of Tri-Media Intelligence, Tsotne Mirtskhulava, told the Media Development Foundation (MDF) that the company had already studied 6,600 households in seven cities of Georgia with the population exceeding 45,000 each. The households were interviewed by 43 employees of GORBI using a questionnaire developed by Kantar Media. Out of 6,600 surveyed some 600 households were selected and special measurement devices - people meters – were installed on their TV sets. People meters allow to receive statistical information from the households in the panel.
According to the director of Tri-Media Intelligence, Tsotne Mirtskhulava, the company plans to cooperate with some 48 organizations, including TV companies and advertising agents; however, he refrained to name those companies that agreed to cooperate with Tri-Media Intelligence. As regards funding and financial transparency, the founder of the company Merab Pachulia has said that the company will make a statement on this issue before starting to measure the television audience, i.e. before 1 January 2016. According to the director of Tri-Media Intelligence, the company’s funding comes from the founders and the bank loan. During the presentation held on 15 October 2014, Merab Pachulia said that initial costs of the company would be covered by GORBI, the company in which Pachulia owns 70% of shares.
On 22 July 2015, Merab Pachulia entered into a collateral loan agreement with TBC Bank pledging his 50% of shares in Tri-Media and 70% in GORBI as collateral. On the same day, an identical agreement with TBC Bank was signed by Giorgi Tevdorashvili, another founder of Tri-Media, also securing the loan with his 50% of shares in Tri-Media. None of the agreements specifies a concrete amount of loan, though sets the maximum limit of amount up to which the request must be met. Such a limit in case of Merab Pachulia is 10 million USD (or equivalent in any currency) while in case of Giorgi Tevdorashvili, it stands at 5 million.
TVMR Georgia, an official licensee of Nielsen Television Audience Measurement, was founded in 2004 and has been measuring television audience since 2005. The director of TVMR Georgia is Nino Gogoladze whilst the owner of 100% of shares in the company is the Commandite Society TVMR registered in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
TVMR Georgia LLC and Gocha Tskitishvili, for their part, own 50%-50% of shares in IPM Monitoring LLC. The director of this company is Nino Gogoladze too. Gocha Tskitishvili owns shares in Media Monitoring LLC as well (100%).
As of today, TVMR Georgia has 34 clients: 13 TV companies, one media seller, 18 advertising agents, the Parliament of Georgia and the GNCC. The TV companies using the service of TVMR include the 1st and 2ndchannels of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Imedi, Rustavi 2, Maestro, Tabula, GDS, Kavkasia, Music Box, Palitra, TV 11, Comedy Channel and Marao. The panel studied by TVMR Georgia comprises 355 households and the company intends to increase to 450 households from 1 January 2016. Currently, the panel covers Tbilisi and six other cities of Georgia with the population exceeding 45,000 each. Beginning in 2016, TVMR Georgia will study the Internet media too.
The company is regularly audited by an independent international auditor to prove the reliability of the television audience measurement. The performance of TVMR Georgia was already studied and assessed four times by independent international certified auditors, with the most recent one conducted within the framework of USAID-funded IREX G-MEDIA program.
In February 2014, the Revenue Service of the Finance Ministry of Georgia launched the inspection of TVMR Georgia and demanded that the company provide the names of 330 households and the list of addresses where people meters were installed. TVMR Georgia refused to provide the data on the ground of confidentiality of the information the disclosure of which would damage the reliability and reputation of the rating company. After that the Revenue Service started the audit of TVMR Georgia’s assets. On 20 March 2014, TVMR Georgia stopped its operation claiming that the audit was interfering with the operation of the company. The activity of the Revenue Service was criticized by five nongovernmental organizations. In a statement released on 18 March, the NGOs noted that the disclosure of identities of persons having people meters installed on their TV sets might affect ratings and create a threat of manipulation with data as households with people meters might start self-censoring themselves. In this regard, five TV companies and more than 10 advertising agents also released a joint statement emphasizing the threat of harming the TV commercial market of the country. Over the period from 24 February to 3 March, the Revenue Service filed three requests with the court in an attempt to have TVMR Georgia provided the confidential information, but the court did not satisfy any of the requests of the Revenue Service. This fact even made it into the US Department of State's Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2014.
To a question asked by Tabula TV during the presentation held by Tri-Media Intelligence in October 2014, as to how the company intended to observe confidentiality of information about the locations of people meters, a representative of Kantar Media,Keld Nielsen,replied:
"We are open in any information, each of our step will be transparent. The only thing which you will never get is the identities and addresses of households where people meters are installed. We operate in China, in Russia and other ‘controlled’ countries. There have been attempts to get this information from us, but disclosing it means closing down your business, because this is what makes your reputation. Therefore, it does not matter who asks for this information; this will never happen,” Nielsen declared.
As regards the position of TVMR Georgia on the emergence of a competitor in the market, the director of the company, Nino Gogoladze recalled yet another incident from their 11-year-long operation. According to her, in 2007, the GNCC purchased people meters for 2 million GEL and handed them over to the company BCG to start measuring the audience. In that period, TVMR Georgia lost all TV companies except Music Box and advertising agencies. However, later the cooperation was restored whereas the rival company stopped this particular line of its business.
Which of the two companies will broadcasters opt for?
A tender of Georgian Public Broadcaster to conduct audience research
The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has been announcing e-tenders for the procurement of service of audience research by people meters since February 2011 and has been cooperating with the TVMR Georgia since then.
The number of people meters requested by the GPB in tenders ranged between 300 and 330 in various years. According to the information published on the webpage of the broadcaster, TVMR Georgia carried out the measurement of its ratings by means of the requested number of people meters (330).
In the tender documentation, announced for the measurement of ratings in the 2016 television season, the GPB increased the minimal number of required people meters. According to this change, people meters must be installed in at least 400 households. Compared to previous year’s data, the increase in the number of people meters caused the increase in an estimated purchase price too. By the time of the announcement of tender by the GPB, TVMR Georgia had not yet publicized its plan that it would start measuring ratings by means of 450 people meters from January 2016; this information is not available on the TVMR webpage either and the company director noted this when speaking to us.
Table 1. GPB tenders for television audience measurement in 2015-2016
The changes in the number of required people meters and estimated price of purchase are not the only changes in the 2015 tender documentation of GPB. While before the GPB always requiredan opinion of international auditorfrom a tender participant, the 2015 document misses such a requirement. Instead, the GPB will have the right to conduct, when need be, audit itself, which means incurring additional costs.
Moreover, a new requirement has appeared in the GPB tender documentation – the capacity to "measure and monitor TV channels both during live viewing and time-shifted (rewind) viewing.” From 2016, this service can only be offered by one of the two operating companies – Tri-Media Intelligence. Therefore, TVMR Georgia’s director Nino Gogoladze considers the tender documentation discriminatory.
Regional broadcasters have never been among the customers of TVMR Georgia LLC. This has been viewed as a shortcoming of the panel by the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters (GARB). As regional broadcasters sais, Tri-Media Intelligence LLC offers them the measurement of ratings both on a local scale and countrywide. According to several companies, at the initial stage the service will be provided for free while lower tariffs will be considered for several regions.
As the director of GARB, Natia Kuprashvili, said, it has not been decided how many member broadcasters of GARB will use the service of audience measurement company. Each regional broadcaster will take an independent decision on whether to cooperate with Tri-Media Intelligence or not, she said.
"Many regions are not covered at all and I think this does not provide a good result. This is my remark and the majority of members have similar remarks. As they say, measuring one or two regional broadcasters alone will further damage the market,” Kuprashvili noted adding that the data on regional cities will not be broken down in such a detailed way as it is in case of Tbilisi data.
According to the director of TV Channel 25, Giorgi Surmanidze, at the initial stage (from three to six months) the information about ratings will be provided for free. As he said, during the meeting representatives of Tri-Media Intelligence made an announcement about installing 80 people meters in Batumi, which will allow to measure ratings of the channel on a local level.
"Everything depends on the amount of money. If the amount is too large to afford we will limit ourselves to the measurement of Batumi alone. If the amount for measurement across Georgia is acceptable, we will look at our budget and take a decision accordingly,”said the director of TV Channel 25. He does not rule out the cooperation with GARB on the purchase of television audience measurement service.
Rioni TV, a member of GARB, intends to have its ratings measured. According to the broadcaster’s director, Tri-Media Intelligence is going to install 100 people meters in Kutaisi. Rioni will receive the service with the help of GARB.
Gurjaani TV company will not use the rating measurement service. The reason for that, according to the executive director Leval Aleksishvili, is that none of two companies existing on the market processes data of the Kakheti region separately.
Aleksishvili is involved in the advertising business as well. His company, Regionmediamarket LLC, places commercials in regional broadcasters. He believes that if he starts to cooperate with Tri-Media Intelligence, he might receive the service for free at the initial stage.
"We will observe the situation in the first month; in general, there have been no negotiations on, say, how it will be rated. I will take a concrete step after that. If this proves to be a smoothly running system reflecting reality, we may cooperate,” Aleksishvili says.
The offer of Tri-Media Intelligence is acceptable for Trialeti TV company. According to Badri Nanitashvili, one of the owners of the channel, the ratings in Gori are measured by 36 people meters. "The price has not been decided yet. They, at least, say that regional televisions will have a separate, low tariff,” Nanitashvili said.
Representatives of Trialeti conducted negotiations with TVMR Georgia too. However, they failed to reach agreement because the company did not offer them the rating by regions.
According to TVMR Georgia, when a TV company broadcast in Gori alone, generalizing its data on other regions would be incorrect. But the switchover to digital broadcasting enabled other cities to watch regional broadcasters too. Consequently, regional TV channels have developed an interest in receiving information from the audience measurement company. However, the regional broadcasters lack sufficient funds to purchase the service from the measuring company. At the same time, TVMR Georgia declares that the advertising market in 2015 decreased by 20% compared to 2014, which means the decrease in revenues to broadcasters too.
Nationwide and Tbilisi broadcasters
According to director of TVMR Georgia, Nino Gogoladze, contracts of three TV companies (Imedi, Maestro and the GPB) with the TVMR will expireon 1 January 2016.
As noted above, the GPB has changed its requirements in the tender announced for the purchase of the audience measurement service for 2016 TV season. The director of TV company Maestro, despite our repeated attempts for several days to communicate with him, declined to comment. The director of Imedi TV company, Giorgi Bakhtadze, plans to start the cooperation with Tri-Media Intelligence LLC, if it meets the requirements of the broadcaster. The new audience measurement company has already familiarized the broadcaster with its offers.
"If this measurement company meets the requirements existing on the market in a professional manner, we will choose one measurement company,” said the director of Imedi.
Rustavi 2 TV company does not plan to cooperate with the new television audience measurement company. The position of the company was communicated by the executive director of Inter-Media LLC, Zurab Gumbaridze. He said, they have agreed their positions regarding the rating measurement company. Gumbaridze noted that they have not discussed the cooperation with Tri-Media Intelligence LLC, because the entry of the company into the market was ambiguous for them.
"It is comfortable to receive separate regional data, but whether the methodology is correct and the number of people meters installed per region appropriate is another issue. This requires a separate survey; are those data which Tri-Media receives sufficient to make the survey representative? There are still questions in this regard,” Gumbaridze explained.
Gumbaridze noted that the cooperation of the company with TVMR Georgia relied on the opinions drawn up by competent international auditing companies which had not discovered any significant violations.
The director of GDS, Jaba Melkadze, is content with the cooperation with TVMR Georgia. However, the channel plans to start in parallel the cooperation with Tri-Media Intelligence. According to Melkadze, the new audience measurement company offers them a more detailed information about its audience.
"At the end of the day, two companies will not be able to exist simultaneously. Our approach is to cooperate with one company during the transitional period and meanwhile observe the activity of another. In the end, we will take a decision in favor of one of them,” GDS director said.
The director of Kavkasia TV company, Nino Jangirashvili, refused to discuss which measurement company the broadcaster intends to cooperate with in 2016. According to her, she does not trust TV audience measurement companies.
"The old company, TVMR, has been biased, unqualified and problematic for years. This new company, as I understand, belongs to Bidzina [Ivanishvili, the ex-prime minister of Georgia]. Therefore, I do not trust their measurements. Both companies entered the market incorrectly; none of them was invited by industrial committee – be it TVMR in the past or Kantar Media now. They ‘invested money themselves’ and began to measure the television audience," the director of Kavkasia TV company noted, who believes that TVMR Georgia was not politically independent.
Alike the Kavkasia TV director, the director of Tabula TV, Tamar Chergoleishvili, also raised questions about the connections of one of owners of Tri-Media Intelligence, Giorgi Tevdorashvili, with Kviris Palitra and the conflict of interests. However, Chergoleishvili noted that Tabula will cooperate with that measurement company which advertisers trust.
"I think that unless the government coerces businesses to cooperate with the company of Pachulia and Tevdorashvili, the businesses will not do that by themselves,” Chergoleishvili added.
Palitra news TV company (Palitra TV) has not decided yet whether to cooperate with Tri-Media Intelligence or not. 100% of shares of this company is owned by Kviris Palitra LLC and according to directors of Tabula and Kavkasia, Tevdorashvili has connections with Kviris Palitra LLC (see infographics). The director of Palitra news TV, Inga Dadiani, considers that the strengths of Tri-Media Intelligence are the number of people meters and technologies.
"We consider meeting them once again and discuss everything, because the number of people meters also means a higher accuracy in measurement,” the director of Palitra news TV said.
Link between Palitra TV and Tri-Media Intelligence
Conflict of interests, which representatives of several companies speak about, is connected to the fact that one of founders of Tri-Media Intelligence, Giorgi Tevdorashvili, owns shares in companies falling within the Palitra Holding. For his part, Giorgi Tevdorashvili declares that he is an editor of a newspaper alone and does not have any shares in digital technologies. 
Palitra news TV company (Palitra TV LLC) is one of media outlets of Palitra Media Holding (Palitra Media LLC). Apart from Palitra news TV company, Palitra Media includes four newspapers, 15 magazines, 17 Internet portals, one radio, a network of bookstores, a publishing house and a press and book distribution agency. Companies falling under the Palitra Media Holding are related to each other by ownership (see infographics).
75% of the shares in Palitra Media LLC belongs to Irakli Tevdorashvili while the remaining 25% is owned by Zaza Buadze. Shares of Kviris Palitra LLC (Kviris Palitra newspaper) are also distributed similarly. Kviris Palitra LLC owns 100% of shares in Palitra TV LLC (Palitra news TV company) and Radio Center Plus LLC (radio Palitra – 103,9 FM). Moreover, Kviris Palitra LLC and Giorgi Tevdorashvili (owner of 50% of shares in Tri-Media Intelligence), who is the brother of an owner of Kviris Palitra LLC Irakli Tevdorashvili, owns shares in the press and books distribution agency (Elvaservice LLC), the network of bookstores (Biblus LLC) and the news agency InterpressNews (Akhali Ambebi LLC).
Link to infographics:http://bit.ly/1RlAVMh
The blog was prepared within the project supported by the NED.
Public Funds for Media Promoting Hate Speech and Anti-Western Sentiments
Since 2014 Media Development Foundation (MDF) has been monitoring public spendings for information dissemination. Throughout the monitoring process, MDF found that number of Ministries and their subordinated legal entities practice contracting media organizations that are known for promoting hate speech and intolerance toward different social groups. Media monitoring activities carried out by MDF throughout 2014-2015 also demonstrated that these media organizations are repeatedly expressing anti-western attitudes. Moreover, number of Ministries implements joint projects with these media outlets.
This research focuses on problems linked to above mentioned cooperation established between these media organization and state institutions.
It is important to mention, that data presented in the research is not complete due to the difficulties of obtaining information from number of legal entities of public law (LEPL) and non-commercial, not-for-profit legal entities (NNLE), as well as due to prolonged court hearings. On June 11, 2015, as a result of a Tbilisi City Court decision on MDF’s law suit, Judge Shota Getsadze made a precedent and established a standard obliging all institutions carrying out public responsibilities to make public all information related to spendings whether public or private undertaken to fulfill their public duties. The court decision and establishment of the precedent created a foundation for making work and financial affairs of LEPLs and NNLEs more transparent.
Obtaining public information from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) yet remains challenging thus leaving only possibility for MDF to acquire information through addressing court of law. Obtaining complete information from the State Procurement Agency’s online database is also challenging. For instance, from the agreements signed with media-union Obiektivi only contract with National Wine Agency (LEPL of Ministry of Agriculture) is available online, while service agreement signed between the same media organization and MIA is not. Moreover, State Procurement Agency remains unresponsive when addressed to make publicly available all information related to MIA. Accordingly, due to these shortcomings public information obtained during this research is incomplete and the process of attaining them has been time consuming and linked to additional efforts.
1. Research Methodology
The proposed research is based on public information obtained from state institutions, online database of State Procurement Agency, monitoring performance of media organizations, analyzing other research findings and international practices.
Public information related to service agreements between public institutions and media organizations signed throughout 2013-2014 were obtained. In particular, contracts signed by Ministries, LEPLs and NNLEs, as well as local self government entities with different media organizations for providing information distribution, advertising and other services, were analyzed. The proposed research focuses only on media organizations that are observed to promote hate speech and practice discriminative editorial policies toward different identity groups.
International regulations providing guidelines for indiscriminative policies for public authorities, including fiscal affairs and relevant state responsibilities were also analyzed.
Alongside to 2013-2014 data, financial support provided for TV program Etaloni in 2015 is also included in the research. The TV program is aired on channel Obiektivi and is illegally funded by administrative resources. Complete data from 2015 will be analyzed in the next report. The case of Etaloni is incorporated in this research to illustrate illegal practices.
Should public funds be used to finance media organizations that promote hate speech and intolerance?
2. International Practice
There is a straightforward answer to this question provided by European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). In particular, #7 recommendation for member countries developed by ECRI on National Legislation to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination states:
9. The law should place public authorities under a duty to ensure that those parties to whom they award contracts, loans, grants or other benefits respect and promote a policy of non-discrimination. In particular, the law should provide that public authorities should subject the awarding of contracts, loans, grants or other benefits to the condition that a policy of non-discrimination be respected and promoted by the other party. The law should provide that the violation of such condition may result in the termination of the contract, grant or other benefits.
16. The law should provide for an obligation to suppress public financing of organisations which promote racism. Where a system of public financing of political parties is in place, such an obligation should include the suppression of public financing of political parties which promote racism.”
3. Statistical Data
In 2013-2014 public funds were used for providing advertising services of following media organizations proved to promoted hate speech: newspaper Sakartvelos Respublika (GEL 63 923,33), media-union Obiektivi (GEL 52 167,84), Alia Holding members – newspaper Alia and Kviris Chronika (GEL 48 650 – data is not complete) and newspaper Asaval-Dasavali (GEL 1 200).
Ltd Etaloni-Media received GEL 68 616.01 for producing TV program Etaloni aired on Obiektivi.
Chart 1. Public funds for media outlets promoting hate speech (2013-2014, partly 2015).
As already mentioned above, provided data is incomplete as number of Ministries and LEPLs as well as NNLEs were reluctant to disclose public information. For instance, Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency (NNLE of Ministry of Agriculture) provided only a joint figure of GEL 1 043 845, 57 that has been transferred to various media outlets, media unions and other companies throughout 2013-2014. Newspapers Alia and Kviris Chronika are listed in the document provided by the Agency, though it refused to provide copies of relevant service agreements. Accordingly at this point, it is impossible to calculate exact amount of funds transferred to separate media organizations, including newspapers that are part of Alia Holding.
On June 11, 2015, Tbilisi City Court (Judge Shota Getsadze) announced a precedential decision and approved MDF law suit against Ministry of Agriculture and NNLE Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency and obliged state institutions to make above mentioned information public.
Data related to law suits: To obtain information regarding public spendings for providing media services, MDF approached 112 public entities including: 19 Ministries, Georgian Government State Chancellery, Parliament of Georgia, Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, administration of state representatives in regions (governors), local municipalities (30), as well as 69 LEPLs and NNLEs.
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia provided information only after MDF addressed court for support. 13 out of 69 LEPLs and NNLEs also declined request to disclose information. At this point 6 refusals were appealed in court and 7 are planned to be appealed in the nearest future. One appeal out of 6 refusals has already been revoked by the court (the case of MDF against Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency), 4 cases against Ministry of Internal Affairs and Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry were resolved during the main hearings by delivering requested public information to MDF and one case against SC “Georgian Energy Development Fund” is at the main hearing stage.
4. Media-union Obiektivi
Media-union Obiektivi received funds from public institutions directly as well as indirectly for providing advertising services and producing and airing TV programs. In particular, according to State Procurement Agency web page, Ltd Etaloni-Media signed agreements and received funds for producing and airing a TV program from various public institutions in 2015, which is an illegal activity.
Below presented data is not complete as number of public institutions declined to issue relevant information (for more see pg. 8).
At the point of publication of this research, MDF gathered information that indicates that media-union Obiektivi signed various service agreements with different public institutions worth of GEL 52 167, 84 throughout 2013-2014. Ltd Etaloni-Media, on its own, received GEL 68 616, 01 from different public organizations in 2015 for preparation of a TV program that is aired on Obiektivi.
Funds allocated for these media organizations per public institution are as follows:
Table 1. Value of service agreements signed between public institutions and meida-union Obiektivi.
Table 2. Value of service agreements signed between public institutions and Ltd Etaloni-Media
4.1 Etaloni on Obiektivi
TV program Etaloni is illegally aired on Obiektivi from May 9, 2015, since according to the Law on Broadcasting, administrative authorities are not allowed to finance TV programs.
1. An administrative authority, a political party, an official and a public servant shall not finance a broadcaster, also shall not purchase its service and finance or co-finance, directly or indirectly, the production of broadcaster’s programs or/and airing thereof except in cases envisaged in Paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Article.
Information available on State Procurement Agency proves that Ltd “Etalon-Media” is providing following two services to its customers: sponsorship and participation in the program.
Article 661 (No Financing) of the Georgian Law on Broadcasting states:
Third paragraph of the Article 661 allows exception only for electoral administration and the second paragraph for following services:
2. An administrative authority may purchase a broadcaster’s service only for airing social advertising and reporting information important for society provided that such purchase is envisaged in a separate clause of its budget. In such a case, if an administrative authority is a procuring entity as specified in the Law of Georgia on State Procurements, the purchase shall be carried out in accordance with the procedure defined by the Law of Georgia on State Procurements
Moreover, first paragraph of the Article 67 of the Law on Broadcasting, clearly states that sponsorship of a TV program by an administrative authorities is illegal:
Prohibition of sponsorship
1. An administrative authority, a member of a collegial administrative authority or a public servant, a political party, a leader or an official of a political party, a coalition or a bloc of political parties or any other electoral entity shall not be a sponsor of a program.
It is important to mention, that almost all public institutions were purchasing services from Ltd Etaloni-Media under different coding defined by the State Procurement Agency. Only municipalities of Adigeni, Oni, Khulo and Kaspi indicated coding for TV and Radio services (CVP 92200000) as the purpose of purchasing advertising services from Etaloni. MIA Academy indicated the code for marketing and advertising services (CVP 79340000), while in other service agreements the same service is indicated as: organization of cultural events (CVP79952100), group games (CVP 37524400), educational games (CVP 37524100), market and economic research, survey and statistics (CVP 79300000), various commercial and other related services (CVP 79900000), recoding in a studio (CVP 79961350), event organization (CVP 79952000).
All above mentioned agreements foresee delivery of following services: “preparation of questions for the TV program with participation of the customer, recoding of the program, editing and airing of the program and in accordance to the program framework - presentation of high school students selected by the customer”. These services are considered illegal by the Article 661 of the Law on Broadcasting as it prohibits “purchasing service and finance or co-finance, directly or indirectly, the production of broadcaster’s programs or/and airing”. Moreover, the service agreements also enable public institutions to be involved in editorial and creative process that violates article 29.2 of the Code of Conduct for Broadcasters (principle that guarantees editorial independence of a broadcaster).
It should be oted that alongside with the services indicated in agreements with local Municipalities, the agreement signed by MIA Academy has an additional service in it:
- Customer’s video (8-11 seconds) should be aired at the beginning and in the middle of the program (at least once);
- Responsible persons representing the customer should be invited as guests at least twice throughout the contract period; the guest should have an opportunity to briefly present own organization, as well as implemented and planned projects;
- Students of the customer should be invited and seen during the program (at least twice throughout the contract period);
- Banners (two) with the logo of the customer should be placed in the studio and be seen during the program;
- Customer’s messages should be read and customer’s logo should be illuminated at least once during every program.
Almost identical services are included in the agreement signed with Ltd Tbilisi Transport Company too.
The Law on Advertising states (Article 13: Sponsorship):
Sponsorship As per this law the sponsorship is a contribution of a natural or legal person to the activity of another natural or legal person (in the form of money, assets, outcome of intellectual activity, rendering service or rendered service, performing the work) on conditions that the product manufactured by the sponsor will be promoted. A sponsor’s contribution is regarded as the cost of advertising whilst a sponsor and the one who has been sponsored as advertiser and advertising distributor, respectively. The sponsor has no right to interfere in the activity of the producer and distributor of advertising. Sponsorship is not allowed for persons whose product or activity is prohibited to be advertised under this Law.
All service agreements signed by public institutions with Ltd Etaloni foresee sponsorship and accordingly violate articles 661 (prohibition of financing broadcasting) and 67 (prohibition of sponsorship) of the Law on Broadcasting. They also create grounds for the customer to interfere in the editorial work of service provider through the right to engage in designing questions and selecting participant students.
This practice violates local legislature as well as recommendations issued by European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). In particular, TV program prepared by Ltd Etaloni is aired on media-union Obiektivi - the channel that openly promotes hate speech.
It should be noted that, in service agreements signed between Ltd Etaloni and public institutions, media-union Obiektivi is not usually indicated. Moreover, in number of agreements, TV program is supposed to be aired on Public Broadcaster, that hosted the program from November 2012 to April (11), 2015. April 15, 2015 agreement signed with MIA Academy, Etaloni-Media takes responsibility to deliver advertising services through media-union Obiektivi instead of Public Broadcaster.
Annex 1. Agreement between MIA Academy and Ltd Etaloni-Media on airing TV program Etaloni on media-union Obiektivi (available in Georgian).
Responsibility to address the cases of violation of principles of the Law on Broadcasting lies with Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC). According to the Article 171 of the Law on Advertising, broadcast advertising monitoring is carried out by the GNCC:
Control in the sphere of broadcast advertising
The sole institution responsible for controlling the timing, placement and means of broadcast advertising as well as the compliance of broadcast advertisement distributor with the restrictions in broadcast advertising specified in the Laws of Georgia On Broadcasting and On Advertising and other legislative acts, is the Georgian National Communications Commission which within the scope of its competence.
On March 26, 2015 for similar activities, in particular, for airing TV program Etaloni sponsored by public institutions: Department of Security Policy of Ministry of Internal Affairs and MIA Academy, Georgian National Communications Commission imposed administrative charge and issued written warning against Public Broadcaster. This decision by the Commission was preceded by the monitoring report on the performance of Public Broadcaster prepared by the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics that expressed concerns in regard to violations by TV program “Etaloni”.
4.2 Obiektivi and Georgian Public Broadcaster
Giorgi Popkhadze, correspondent of European Bureau of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) who has been known for homophobic rhetoric simultenousely serves as a co-anchor of a TV show Noon on Obiektivi.
Giorgi Popkhadze is appointed as a corrspondent of European Bureau of GPB’s news program since November 1, 2014. This appointment has been criticized by human rights activists due to his previous homophobic statements.
Before his employment by GPB, Giorgi Popkhadze was involved with media-union Obiektivi as a reporter based in Europe. Monitoring of the programs aired on Obiektivi proves that his cooperation with this TV channel has not been terminated. He is a co-anchor of a TV show Noon aired on Obiektivi from Mondays to Fridays at 14:30-16:30.
Annex 2. European Bureau correspondent of GPB works as a co-anchor of TV Show Noon aired on media-union Obiektivi (according to the anchor search engine on the web page of Obiektivi).
Is there conflict of interests when correspondent of Georgian Public Broadcaster simulteniously is an anchor of Obikitivi TV show?
According to the Paragraph 6 of the Article 23 of the Law on Broadcasting that regulates interest conflicts of employees of Public Broadcaster: “An employee of the Public Broadcaster shall not be an official of or perform any remunerated work for another broadcaster.” It should be noted, that Irakli Tsilikishvili, Chair of the Board at Obiektivi explains that Giorgi Popkhadze does not receive remuneration for his work at Obiektivi and their cooperation is entirely voluntaristic. Though, in this case, there is no direct violation of the law, but conflict of interest still remains.
Giorgi Popkhadze is not listed as a correspondent among other reporters and journalists under the section “Our Team” on the web page of Public Broadcaster. Public Broadcaster was reluctant to issue information about the number of reports prepared by Brussels’ Bureau arguing that reports are not archived according to the name or surname of the journalists but under the relevant event and topic.
Public Broadcaster usually sends a crew from Tbilisi to Europe to cover European Union events or other international forums, visits of Georgian Government officials to Europe and other important developments. Ketevan Kardava, former reporter of the Brussels’ Bureau is most active in covering these events. As she is currently based in Tbilisi, her trips to cover Euro-Atlantic integration issues from different capitals of European countries are linked to additional expanses. At the same time, reporter of the Brussels’ Bureau of Public Broadcaster is on air of the TV show Obiektivi on daily bases as an anchor, that creates impression that GPB is indirectly financing anchor on “Obiektivi” from its own budget. Monthly budget to cover salaries of the Bureau staff in Brussels is GEL 4 300. With the argument, of nondisclosure of private information, Public Broadcaster did not issue information regarding number of employees and salary per employee in its Brussels’ Bureau. Alongside to financial issues, concerns raised by human rights activists are also quite legitimate, indicating conflict of interests, on the one hand, with homophobic and anti-western statements made by Giorgi Popkhadze, and, on the other hand, with content related obligations that GPB should observe according to the Law on Broadcasting. In particular, according to the Article 16 (content obligations):
Public Broadcaster shall:
h) reflect ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious, age and gender diversity in programs;
m) promote main directions of Georgia’s foreign policy, including the integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (hereinafter - the NATO) and the European Union.
During discussions around anti-discriminative law in Georgian Parliament, presented as a part of the Association Agreement with EU, Giorgi Popkhadze in his interview with newspaper Kviris Chronika (May 5-11, 2014) made following homophobic statement:
Giorgi Popkhadze: „It was Soso Jachvliani [GD MP] who introduced the term – “bottom givers”. Wasn’t he the one, who fought tirelessly against the pederasts?! Nondiscriminated Georgia, we are entering Europe with its ass?.. We did not only entered Europe’s bottom, but went so far, that we are there!.. We are stepping back and doing so with ass“.
In a conversation with Asaval-Dasavali newspaper (27 April-3 May 2015) about the NGOs, who are often depicted in the anti-Western context as hired agents promoting interests of foreign countries, the representative of the Europe Bureau of the Public Broadcaster made the following statement:
Giorgi Popkhadze: „The sources of financing of the NGOs must be studied and legally prohibited organizations living off the foreign resources, which are acting against the Georgian state. In France no one will allow for an NGO to be financed from Saudi Arabia, or even from America!“
Giorgi Popkhadze’s comment, regarding the U.S. State Department 2014 report on human rights, printed in the Kviris Chronika newspaper for 29 June and other online outlets, points at the Public Broadcaster’s Brussels Bureau correspondent’s party connections and his advocacy for the Georgian government in Europe. The Public Broadcaster’s correspondent describes his own lobbying efforts in the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, which, according to him, is conducted on the basis of materials provided by Irma Inashvili [Secretary General of the Patriots Alliance].
Giorgi Popkhadze: „I was really upset on my way back from Strasbourg. I was sitting in a train and thinking – why do I put strain on myself, why am I engaged in this, if these people [the Georgian government] is not by my side at all. It is only us, me and Inashvili, who keep visiting Europe covering our own expenses and talk to the politicians there. What we are doing should be done by the government”.
According to Article 29 of the Broadcasters Code (requirements to editorial independence):
Requirements to editorial independence
7. Journalists shall not compromise broadcasters’ independence by their civic, political, economic or social activities and must avoid any conflicts of interest.
According to Article 30 (guidelines for editorial independence):
Guidelines for editorial independence
1. Broadcasters and their employees should avoid any conflicts of interest which may compromise broadcasters’ editorial independence, impartiality and fairness.
3. Journalists should not simultaneously work for such employers which may give rise to conflicts of interest.
4. Broadcasters should not support any organization, its products, actions, or services.
According to Article 22.1 of the Public Broadcaster’s Code of Conduct (personal activity and conflict of interest):
Personal activity and conflict of interest
22.1 Personal activity and conflict of interest The GPB’s journalists, presenters reporters, producers, and other responsible persons must not by their public, political or other non-broadcasting activity bring into question the principles of impartiality and fairness being advocated by the Broadcaster.
On 6 July 2015 the Monitoring Council of the Public Broadcaster addressed the Board of Trustees and the Broadcaster’s Director General, calling them to study the conflict of interest in the case of the Moambe news program’s Brussels correspondent and to ensure this process is open to the public.
4.3. Obiektivi and joint projects with the government
Cooperation between media union Obiektivi and a number of ministries is demonstrated by various TV programs broadcasted by Obiektivi. For instance, in the summer of 2014, by Thursdays, the first part of Obiektivi TV program Night Studio was dedicated to the joint project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Obiektivi. The program was visited by high-level officials from the Ministry (for instance, Deputy Minister of Agriculture David Galegashvili).
According to the information from the Ministry of Agriculture, they did not fund the preparation of this program. However, the information regarding funds transferred to the media by the Ministry of Agriculture’s subordinate organization is not public yet.
Another agency cooperating with Obiektivi and denying financing of the joint projects is the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of Georgia. In spring there was a joint TV project broadcasted by Obiektivi in the Night Studio program, where the Ministry’s activities were discussed with its representatives.
Every Sunday at 21:30 Obiektivi broadcasts program Prime Minister’s Hour, covering the Prime Minister’s meetings during the week.
At the same time, Obiektivi radio and TV program Kulturis Saati (Culture Hour) is anchored by the Minister of Education and Culture of Abkhazia Dima Jaiani, who has often been criticized by NGOs for his homophobic and anti-Western statements:
Dima Jaiani, Ministre of Education anc Culture of Abkhazia: “Pedarasty is not Europe! And If Europe is pederasty, than I don’t want such Europe!”
Dima Jaiani was appointed to this position in 2013. Prior to that he had been a member of the Public Assembly – organization connected to Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement.
4.4. Obiektivi and its partner media outlets and NGOs
Research conducted by the Media Development Foundation makes it clear that Obiektivi and its partner media outlets have identical editorial policy and are leaders in promoting anti-Western sentiments, hate speech, xenophobia and homophobia (see annexes, p. 35). These same media outlets rely on the Russian sources which, besides incorrect interpretations regarding values, often blatantly fabricate information and mislead the public.
The infographics below: 1. Shows Russian-language sources relied on by the media union Obiektivi and its partner organizations Georgia and the World (Geworld.ge) and Saqinformi in their reporting (February, 2014-2015).
Russian-language films in violation of law. Russian-language films were aired by Obiektivi with violation of the law on broadcasting. Specifically, Andrei Kondrashov’s film Crimea – The Road Back to Motherland on 22 March 2015 and Vladimir Soloviov’s film President on 3 May were aired in Russian language without subtitles in Georgia’s state language.
According to article 511 of the law on broadcasting, “films in a non-state language must be broadcasted only duplicated in Georgia’s state language”, and according to the second section of the same article, “the Commission [GNCC] can establish obligations for general and specialized broadcasters to place in the weekly schedule a film in non-state language (except series) in its original language(s), without it being duplicated in the state language, with subtitles in Georgia’s state language”. According to the Commission’s resolution from 30 October 2009, “Feature and documentary films in non-state language (all those except films in Georgian and Abkhazian languages), TV shows and series, can be broadcasted by a private (general or special) license holder and by the Public Broadcaster when duplicated in the Georgian language, and in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia – in Georgian or Abkhazian language".
On 19 May Media Development Foundation addressed the Georgian Natioinal Communication Commission (GNCC) and requested to the study the violation of the law and the GNCC’s resolution by the media union Obiektivi while broadcasting Russian-language films. The GNCC launched administrative proceedings regarding this case.
Geworld.ge and Saqinformi. Besides Obiektivi, its partners - Geworld.ge and Saqinform - relied on Russian-language sources as well. These outlets have openly pro-Russian editorial policy and, together with other outlets presented in this report, are leaders in hate speech, homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Western sentiments. The IDFI’s research “Russian Influence in the Georgian NGO Sector and Media” highlights pro-Russian organizations’ and their satellite media outlets’ connections with various other media outlets, including media union Obiektivi. According to this study, the publisher of internet portals Geworld.ge and Saqinformi is organization Historical Heritage, which is a partner of Eurasian Institute supporting Georgia joining Eurasian Union and has strongly anti-Western rhetoric.
Each Wednesday at 11:30 Obiektivi TV and radio broadcast weekly TV program “Hour of Geworld” that present overview of the newspaper “Georgia and the World” (Geworld). This newspaper, besides its very strongly anti-Western and xenophobic sentiments, widely promotes support to the Kremlin’s policies. Online version of the newspaper published President Dmitry Medvedev’s address to its publishing organization Historical Heritage.
Valeri Kvaratskhelia, one of the anchors of Obiektivi talk show Night Studio, actively cooperates with Geworld.ge. At the same time, Kvaratskhelia actively participates in the events organized in Georgia by the Kremlin-connected organizations Historical Heritage and Center for Problems of Globalization.
Asaval-Dasavali. There is also another media outlet promoted by Obiektivi TV and radio, which is notable for hate speech and anti-Western sentiments. Every Monday at 11:30 Obiektivi airs TV program “Hour of Asaval-Dasavali”. This newspaper’s platform is more of ethno-nationalistic nature, but, as demonstrated by the MDF’s research, its content is identical to the narrative of openly pro-Russian outlets.
4.5. Obiektivi and political union Alliance of Patriots’
One of the co-founder of media union Obiektivi is a member of Alliance of Patriots’ Irma Inashvili. According to the Obiektivi license documents, on 11 July 2013 Media House Obiektivi Ltd. and Media Union Obiektivi addressed the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) in order to transfer private broadcasting licenses #B62 and #B114 from Media House Obiektivi Ltd. to Media Union Obiektivi. Owner of 28.5% share of Media House Obiektivi Ltd., according to the public registry data from 2013, is Irma Inashvili.
According to the GNCC’s decision #511/5 (16 August 2013), it is clear that during the transfer of license, board members of Media Union Obiektivi were Irma Inashvili, Mamuka Gobechia and Regan Teloyani. The GNCC’s decision also says that Chairman of the board Irakli Tsilikashvili confirmed in his compliance declaration that the license applicant and/or its beneficial owners do not represent a political party or any political party official.
According to the registry of political organizations, the Alliance of Patriots’ is registered on 22 January 2013. According to the party founding documents received by request from the Public Registry, the Alliance of Patriots’ held its founding congress on 19 December 2012. The congress protocol indicates that the chairman of the organization is David Tarkhan-Mouravi, while identities of secretary general and chairperson of audit commission are concealed and establishing them by these documents is impossible. The party does not have a website where it would be possible to check this data, but media union Obiektivi news call Irma Inashvili the Secretary General of Patriots Alliance, while Mamuka Gobechia, who at the moment of the transfer of license (16 August 2013) was board member of media union Obiektivi, is anchoring Politikuri Azri (Political Opinion) TV program by Sundays at 16:30 on Obiektivi and speaks there on behalf of the Alliance of Patriots’ („I am happy to represent this political organization“). Mamuka Gobechia also spoke for the Patriots Alliance on Palitra TV while assessing the local elections of 2014, saying the following:
Mamuka Gobechia, Allaince of Patriots, Obiektivi anchor: “We [Alliance of Patriots’] are not a new organization… This is a team of people who created media-inion Obiketivi in 2003”.
Annex 3. Charter of the Patriots Alliance, the names of secretary general and chairperson of audit commission are concealed by the Public Registry.
Because the Public Registry does not fully publicize the party’s founding documents it is impossible to establish whether at the time of the transfer of license there was a conflict of interest in the media union Obiektivi, where Irma Inashvili and Mamuka Gobechia already were board members.
Public Register explains its decision by protecting personal information and appeals to the 1st Part of Article 44 of Georgian administrative code, according to which “public agency must not publicize personal data without the person’s consent, or without the court’s decision in cases envisioned by law”.
Georgian organic law on Political Unions (Article 3) clarifies that creation and activities of a party are based on the following principles:
Basic principles of the foundation and activities of a party:
a) Voluntarity of membership of and withdrawal from party;
c) Elections and accountability;
e) Publicity of the foundation and activities of a party.
Publicity of the foundation and activities of a party, elections and accountability, and general openness of political process also means openness of identities of the party leadership, which Public Registry interpreted in violation of the law and, along with secretary general and chairperson of audit commission, also concealed identities of members of the party’s 9-person executive agency, which had been elected by the party congress. The Public Registry’s decision is also questionable because the principle of personal data protection has been applied selectively and not in the case of the party’s chairman.
According to the public information available in the media, one of the anchors of Obiektivi talk show Night Studio, Soso Zaalishvili is also member of the Patriots Alliance. In the Voice of America report about the Patriots’ Alliance founding congress (22 December 2012) Soso Zaalishvili spoke as a member of Patriots Alliance and said that the goal of their political organization is the defeat of liberalism in Georgia.
According to Obiektivi TV schedule, various programs are also anchored by other members of the Patriots Alliance: Monday (19:30) - „Literatura, Khelovneba, Suliereba” (Literature, Art, Spirituality) program - party member Vazha Otarashvili; Tuesday (16:30) - „Mebrdzol Devnilta Saati“ (Hour of Figting IDPs) – member of the party’s political council Ada Marshania; Sunday (16:30) - „Politikuri Azri“ (Political Opinion) – Mamuka Gobechia, Patriots Alliance. The Chairman of the party David Tarkhan-Mouravi promotes Turkophobic and anti-Western sentiments mostly through Obiektivi broadcasts:
Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, Alliance of Patriots: “Never during its existence Turkey did any good neither for Georgia, nor for any European country or anyone else in the World. For all its history Turkey was conqueror destroying states and people... Turkey wants to occupy Georgia again and does not hide this desire”.
Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, Alliance of Patriots: “Europe actually destroyed Greece, erased its economy, trampled upon its culture, morals, orthodox Christianity… Bondo Mdzinarishvili, presenter: “In other words, this is the fight against Orthodox Christianity.” Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi: “Of course and seeing that, pro-Russian sentiments have been on the rise there because Russia is the Orthodox Christian country too”.
5. Other media outlets
Other media outlets notable for the use of hate speech and promotion of anti-Western sentiments also received financing from the budget for placing advertisement in 2013-2014. These outlets include: Sakartvelos Respublika newspaper (63 923, 33 lari), Alia Holding - newspapers Alia and Kviris Chronika (48 650 lari), also Asaval-Dasavali newspaper (1 200 lari).
Sakartvelos Respublika. The largest financing has been received by Sakartvelos Respublika newspaper, which in the past was printed under the names of “Communist” and “Akhali Sakartvelo”. MDF does not conduct regular monitoring of this newspaper, but content analysis of its several issues, randomly chosen, made clear the homophobic and xenophobic character of its editorial policy. We shall bring several headlines and illustration from Sakartvelos Respublika as an example: “Does the road towards NATO and Europe go through the Georgians’ asses? (corresponding illustration is attached)“, "Before we have turned into Sodom and Gomorra" „France turned pederast, Vladimer “the Strong Man” and a lawyer in Nakhalovka”, „Will Georgia turn Chinese or Wonderful?“ and others.
The following public agencies have transferred money to this outlets:
Table 3. Value of service agreements signed between public institutions and Sakartvelos Respublika newspaper.
Alia Holding. The state agencies have also service contracts with Alia Holding, the newspapers of which – Alia and Kviris Chronika – are also notable for hate speech, homophobia and anti-Western sentiments. As has been already noted, these data are not full, since as of now the Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency has not complied with the court decision and has not provided information on what funds had been allocated by the Agency for Alia and Kviris Chronika newspapers from the 1 043 845,57 lari the Agency had transferred to the media in 2013-2014.
The following state agencies have contracts with the newspapers in the Alia Holding:
Table 4. Value of service agreements signed between public institutions and Alia Holding.
Asaval-Dasavali. The least financing from the state agencies, according to existing data, has been received by Asaval-Dasavali newspaper, which is the print media leader in hate speech and homophobia. In 2013 Social Service Agency of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs signed service contract for 1200 lari for advertisements with Asaval-Dasavali.
- Conclusions and recommendations
The following issues have been identified by the study:
- Spending of the budgetary funds in media is not transparent, especially regarding the media outlets whose editorial policy is blatantly based on hate speech and various forms of discrimination. Existing practice contradicts international norms which stipulate the states’ anti-discrimination policy.
- In the case of the Public Broadcaster we have a situation when there probably is indirect financing of an Obiektivi TV program anchor at the Public Broadcaster’s expense. There also is a conflict of interest in the case of its Brussels bureau correspondent regarding not only bias of values, but also his party affiliation.
- State agencies violate requirements of the law, according to which they are prohibited from sponsoring TV programs and interfering in editorial decisions. Such relations are often formalized by contracts between the state agencies and media outlets.
- Articles of the General Administrative Code regarding freedom of information in practice meet obstacle in the form of both non-provision of data and, in the case of legal entities of public law and non-profit legal entities, questionable interpretation of legislation.
- Public Registry’s justifications of non-provision of information regarding individuals engaged in public political process by protection of personal data contradict the fundamental principle of publicity of establishment and functioning of political parties.
- Court cases regarding provision of information are prolonged ones, which hinders timely informing the general public.
In order to fix these problems the following is important:
- The government of Georgia and its specific agencies must take into account ECRI recommendations #7 on the national legislation and refrain from signing contracts with the organizations that have discriminatory editorial policy.
- On the basis ECRI recommendations they must work out regulations which make compliance with and support of anti-discrimination policy by the other side a pre-condition for making contracts.
- State agencies must publicize the funds transferred to media for advertisements and publishing of information. They should publish this data on their websites proactively.
- The Public Broadcaster should react on the basis of the Monitoring Council’s recommendations and study the case of conflict of interest.
- Georgian National Communications Commission must effectively monitor compliance with the advertisement legislation, so that all media outlets have equal conditions; particular attention should be paid to the sponsoring of those programs in the cases of which administrative violations have already been found.
- State agencies should not sign contracts that contain obligations which contradict the law and in some cases constitute interference in the editorial activities.
- Public Registry must fully publicize and make accessible online the data on political parties, just like it is in the case of other legal entities.
- The Parliament should review the part of the article on freedom of information of the Administrative Code which regulates access to public information, and decrease the timeframe of hearings of such cases in courts in the interest of timely obtainment of public information.
Annex 4. Tables and charters from annual media monitoring report (February 2014- February 2015).
 “Hate Speech and Xenophobia”, Media Development Foundation, 2015:
“Homophobia and Gender Identity”, Media Development Foundation, 2015:
 “Anti-western Propaganda”, Media Development Foundation, 2015:
 Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs (see p. 21)
 At the point of the publication of the research findings, information has not been provided by the Ministry of Agriculture: in particular, how much has been allocated for media organizations from GEL 1 043 845, 57 that was budgeted for Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency (NNLE of Ministry of Agriculture) for media services.
 Info 9, new agency – IPN, GeoHotNews (GHN), Pirveli, BPN, palitra.ge, newspapers: Rezonansi, Alia, Kviris Chronika, Kviris Palitra, Prime Time, Guria News (Chokhatauris Matsne), Financial Intelligence Group, Orion Khalabegashvili (Spektri).
 Georgian Association of Regional Media, Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters.
 Media Port, MGI studio, UM Georgia, Studio 123, Cor Production.
 Ltd Georgian Post, Ltd Georgian Railway, Ltd Sakaeronavigatsia, Ltd Mechanizatori (provided only partial information), LEPL Batumi State Maritime Academy, LEPL Georgian State University for Physical Education and Sports, Ltd Tbilisi Transport Company
 USD GEL exchange rate for 2014 - 1.7659
 Municipalities of Adigeni, Dusheti, Kazbegi, Martvili, Oni, Khulo, Kaspi, Akhmeta, Zestaponi, Ninotsminda, Shuakhevi, Senaki, Ambrolauri, Abasha.
 Contract signed with Ltd Tbilisi Transport Company initially considered airing TV program on Public Broadcaster, but later it was changed to TV channel “Obiektivi”. The amount is calculated in accordance to airing TV program through relevant channel.
 For the March 2015 decision (#162/18) of the Georgian National Communications Commission on issuing administrative warning against Public Broadcaster see: http://gncc.ge/ge/legal-acts/commission/solutions/2015-162-181.page
 For More see: http://qartia.org.ge/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/GPB-GEO.pdf (Pg. 31)
 #26(702) 29.06.-05.07, 2015
 For instance, the program where he guests were: Acting Deputy Director of the Children and Youth Fund Mathe Gabitsinashvili and participant of one of the grant competitions Levan Phangani (5 March,2015).
 Asaval-Dasavali, 18-24 August, „Anti-Western Propaganda“, MDF, 2015.
 „Hate Speech and Xenophobia“, MDF, 2015.
„Homophobia and Gender Identity“, MDF, 2015.
 Source: “Anti-Western propaganda“, p. 19. MDF, 2015.
 5 July 2015. http://www.myvideo.ge/?video_id=2598479
 16 June 2014. http://www.palitratv.ge/gadacemebi/reziume/46762-qreziumeq-stumrebi-irakli-tcyoidze-mamuka-gobechia.html (from 38:11).
 Obiektivi, Night Studio, 20 May, 2014.p. 60.
„Hate Speech and Xenophobia“, MDF, 2015.
 Obiektivi, Night Studio, 21 March 2014.
“Anti-Western Propaganda“, MDF, 2015.
 #94, 23 May 2013
 #83, 3 May 2013
 #81, 1 May 2013
 Ministry of Education and Culture of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia; Department of Utilities of the government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia; Ministry of Finance of Georgia; National Regulatory Commission of Energy and Water Supply; and other agencies.