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.
Media Receiving Funding from the State Budget Unequal Competition among News Agencies
The Media Development Foundation (MDF) conducts monitoring of budget amounts spent on the release of information. The monitoring is aimed at studying how and why the budgetary funds are allocated to separate media outlets.
On the first stage of the research, the MDF applied to 19 ministries and the State Chancellery of Georgia asking for the information on the amounts these state entities transferred to media outlets for the latter to release information and render advertising and other services, and the nature of services delivered by media outletsin 2013-2014.
Of these 20 public institutions only one – the Ministry of Internal Affairs – failed to supply the requested information within the terms established by the law. An administrative complaint was filed against this violation.
This preliminary report reflects amounts allocated from budgets of the ministries to news agencies for the preparation and release of information as well as the delivery of other similar services and does not reflect similar services delivered to legal entities in public lawsubordinated to these ministries.
We will analyze the distribution of advertising among other types of media outlets, including instances of surreptitious advertising and programs sponsored by state entities, in the next research.
The research involved the analysis of the information obtained from public entities. In particular, the following information was requested:
- The aggregate amount transferred to media outlets in 2013-2014 as well as amounts transferred to individual media outlets by the ministries and State Chancellery;
- Copies of contracts (2013-2014) requiring from media outlets to release information, advertise for and deliver other services to ministries and the State Chancellery;
- Documents certifying the delivery and acceptance of services specified in the contracts (2013-2014).
Findings of research
- The Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection refers to Prime Minister’s order (#727) as the basis for the contracts with four news agencies (IPN, PIA, GHN, medianews.ge) signedin the pre-election period, which provides the ground to assume that the subsidizing of news agencies from the budget is coordinated on the government level;
- The majority of ministries (11 ministries) and the State Chancellery of Georgia have contracts with Akhali Ambebi LLC – InterPressNews agency (IPN); the second by the number of awarded contracts is PirWeli LLC – news agency PIA (five ministries);
- The leader among news agencies by the size of budget funding in 2013-2014 is IPN (101,539.8 GEL), followed by GHN (48,690 GEL) and PIA (43,033.8 GEL). According to the available information, the total value of contracts signed with news agencies makes up 254,774.2 GEL over the same period. The highest number of contracts with news agencies is signed by the Ministry of Defense (eight news agencies);
- Criteria for the selection of news agencies are unclear, including the budgetary financing for such news outlets which publish homophobic materials on their websites (for example, PIA reprinted the article published in Asaval-Dasavali newspaper titled “Conchita Hosted at Avlabari Residence”);
- By financing eight news agencies from the budget and supplying them with information in advance, the state places other news agencies in unequal conditions, especially considering that it deals withthe public information which must be equally available for everyone;
- The majority of these ministries (13 out of 18) and the State Chancellery pay the news agencies for such services which include the coverage of activities in accordance with the requirements of these state entities and the release of information supplied by them, which is the infringement of editorial independence of media outlets;
- The contracts of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection with three news agencies (PIA, GHN, medianews.ge) contain additional requirementsaccording to which the ministry determines the newsworthiness of supplied information (obliging news agencies to publish supplied information as special, or second and third category news) and the speed of publication of supplied information (within 30 minutes and, in special cases, within 10 minutes of receiving information); also, the ministry obliges the news agencies to send ministry’s short text announcements to editors and producers of other media outlets, which represents a responsibility of entity’s press service, and to promote its statuses, photo, video and other materials via social networks;
- Services procured by other ministries include: the attendance of events and news briefings by journalists; the coverage of events in accordance with the requirements of purchaser; the conduct of interviews on agreed topics; the selection of photos of the day, and other services that fall within the realm of journalistic autonomy;
- Those materials that are financed by purchaser do not represent artical or independent coverage. By essence, such materials are promotional publications and therefore, must be clearly separated from editorial materials and sign posted as advertisement, something that news agencies fail to do. Providing advertisement and editorial materials in the category of news misleads audience because it is not given an opportunity to distinguish between the materials financed by ministries and the materials produced independently by media outlets;
- Documents certifying the delivery and acceptance of services reflect the monthly amount of services provided by news agencies without specifying the types of services, which might be misused;
- Public opinion polls published on the website of IPN does not indicate who commissioned them, thereby making it difficult to establish which particular polls have been financed by the State Chancellery;
- From existing 18 ministries only five (those of Justice, Education and Science, Energy, Regional Development and Infrastructure, and Finance) do not procure the service of news agencies and some of them applies advertising in interaction with public.
The order #727 of Prime Minister of Georgia
On 30 April 2014, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection signed contracts with four news agencies - the InterPressNews (IPN), PirWeli (PIA), GHN and Medianews. All the four contracts refer to the order #727 of Prime Minister of Georgia, dated 23 April 2014, as the basis for the procurement of information service.
The mentioned order, signed by Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili, envisages the purchase of the service of news agencies with the total value of 19,720 GEL for ensuring the unimpeded conduct of events of state and public importance by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection within limited time frames.
A subject of contract in the case of three news agencies (PIA, GHN, medianews.ge) is almost identical and include such obligations that infringe a journalistic autonomy and run counter to the principle of separation of advertisement from editorial materials:
- Service provider shall publish or/and if need be, produce and publish (announcements/information about the activity of and events conducted by the purchaser, photos, record interviews, et cetera) news supplied by the purchaser on a webpage….;
- Service provider shall release news supplied by the purchaser via various means of media;
- Service provider shall ensure the placement of information as the second and third category news in the amount as supplied by the purchaser;
- Service provider shall publish news of special importance in the place assigned for and on conditions of the first category news (the special importance of news is determined by the purchaser);
- After two hours, the first category information may be downgraded to the news of second and third categories;
- Service provider shall send short text messages of announcement to editors and producers of media outlets maximum four times per month;
- Service provider shall ensure the publication of materials supplied by the purchaser within 30 minutes, also in case of urgency, within the shortest possible time, but no later than within 10 minutes of receiving the news;
- Published information shall be available for the purchaser at any time (with or/and without relevant authorization).
According to the contracts, two agencies (PIA, GHN) are obliged to additionally promote the materials produced in agreement with the purchaser and about the purchaser in the form of photo album, video or Facebook status on the Facebook pageof news agency.
PIA: “Service provider shall, upon prior agreement with the purchaser, place a paid advertisement conveying information about events and novelties of the ministry in various possible formats (photo album , video, status, et cetera) on the Facebook page of the service provider (862 GEL per month).”
In case of GHN, a monthly fee for advertising on Facebook comprises 300 GEL.
It is worth noting that on 4 November, on its own Facebook page, PIA news agency placed the information about Prime Minister firing Defense Minister as a form of such advertisement; on 5 November, the same Facebook page published the information of Daijesti.pia.ge about accusations of Chairman of Association of Human Rights Defenders Nikoloz Mzhavanadze against the former Defense Minister and a quote from the article titled “Alasania is having fun with his girlfriend in Paris on the account of money allocated for our soldiers,”as an advertisement.
Documents certifying the delivery and acceptance of services show costs of services rendered monthly without specifying those materials which the ministry paid for, thus making it difficult to examine whether contractual amounts where spent as intended.
A contract with InterPressNews (IPN) is different in that it also envisages the coverage of the activity of the purchaser:
- Service provider shall ensures the preparation of announcements/information about - and the coverage of - the activities of the purchaser and events held by it, also to communicate this information to other media outlets, maximum 10 times a month. Service provider shall ensure photographing of events maximum twice a month.
That 19,720 GEL allocated on the basis of Prime Minister’s order was distributed among news agencies in the following way:
All the four contracts are entered into for the term from between 1 May 2014 and 31 December 2014. It is worth noting that both the issuance of the order of the government (23 April) and signing of the contracts (30 April) took place in the run up to local elections held on 15 June, which might be evaluated as the use of administrative resources.
Distribution of amounts by ministries
The procurement of services of news agencies, which mainly involves the coverage of ministries’ activities by agencies, is practiced in 13 ministries out of existing 18 ministries (we lack the data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs at this stage). However, in contrast to the Ministry of Culture, other contracts do not refer to the order of the Prime Minister as the basis of contracts.
The majority of ministries (11 in total) and the State Chancellery have contracts with InterPressNews (101,539.8 GEL); the second by the number of signed contracts (with five ministries) is GHN (48,690 GEL).
Defense Ministry has contracts with eights news agencies with the total value comprising 129,840 GEL in 2013-2014.
According to contracts signed with news agencies for 2013 and 2014, amounts were distributed in the following way:
Subject of contracts
Apart from services specified in contracts awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, the contracts of other ministries envisage the following types of services:
- Attendance of journalists on events/news conferences and coverage thereof (Ministry of agriculture and IPN; the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia and GHN, PIA);
- Attendance of events by media outlets and the release of purchaser’s information by them(the State Ministry for Euro-Atlantic Integration and IPN);
- Comments on topical issues for the aim of popularizing a person or an organization: interview on preliminarily agreed issues (Ministry of Agriculture and IPN); preparation of interviews and comments about topics important and interesting for the Ministry (Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs; the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance; the State Ministry for Euro-Atlantic Integration and IPN; Ministry of Defense and GHN);
- Service provider shall cover novelties at the purchaser’s will by means of agencies InterPressNews/For.ge/Medianews / ExpressNews / Caucasuspress (Defense Ministry);
- In accordance with the requirement, shall ensure the communication to broad masses and the coverage of presentations, events, news briefings, conferences that are important for the purchaser (Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development; the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance; the State Ministry for Euro-Atlantic Integration; Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs; the State Ministry on Diaspora Issues and IPN);
- Service provider, according to the requirement of persons assigned in contracts (persons assigned by the head of department for public affairs, persons assigned by the head of department for public procurements), shall publish on its webpage: press releases, announcements, comments, including in English language: according to the requirement, ensures the purchaser with analytical materials (Defense Ministry and GHN);
- Placement of supplied photos as photos of the day (in unlimited amount) (Defense Ministry and GHN);
- Upon the agreement with employees of the Ministry, shall prepare analytical letters about the defense sphere, an interview shall be prepared with a representative of the Defense Ministry once a month (Defense Ministry and For.ge).
According to a contract, the State Chancellery of Georgia has purchased a VIP service from the news agency IPN, the annual cost of which totals 4,995 GEL. The contract envisages the communication with other media outlets as well as, upon the requirement of the purchaser, the preparation of journalistic materials and opinion polls.
- Upon the requirement, the preparation/coverage of announcement and information about the activity of the purchaser and events conducted thereof, also the release of that material for other media outlets (maximum 15 times a month);
- The invitation of media outlets to events… preparation of press release and corresponding photo material and release thereof for media outlets.
- Organizing and planning interaction with media;
- Sociological survey (two telephone surveys a year);
- Upon the requirement of a purchaser, preparation and release of interviews and comments on important and interesting topics (maximum twice a month);
- The conduct of opinion poll on an agreed topic through the website of IPN (maximum once a month).
There is only one survey, conducted by IPN jointly with Kviris Palitra, available in the section of opinion polls on the webpage of InterPressNews ("The majority of respondents favor the continuation of Abashidze-Karasin talks). This poll does not indicate the methodology of the poll nor does it provide such important details as who commissioned and financed the poll; all this information, however, is an essential standard for the coverage of sociological surveys in media and serves the aim of providing comprehensive information to society about the objectives of the survey.
Nor do other surveys conducted by Kviris Palitra newspaper, published on the webpage of InterPressNews, indicate who commissioned them (for example, “The majority of respondents view Irakli Garibashvili as the most successful minister today,” “The majority of respondents name Irakli Garibashvili as the most influential politician,” “Most of respondents believe that the level of crime remains the same, though the media coverage of crime increased,” "The majority of readers positively assess the toughening of police control, "More readers evaluate the activity of police positively than negatively", "The majority of readers assess the situation with the rule of law as satisfactory, "The majority of readers consider the availability of health care as the biggest achievement").
Thus, according to the results of surveys published on the webpage, it is difficult to establish which of them was financed by the State Chancellery from the budget.
Distribution of amounts by news agencies
According to available information, in 2013-2014,the largest budget financing among the new agencies has been received by IPN (101,539.8 GEL), which is followed by GHN at 48,690 GEL, PIA at 43,033.8 GEL, and For.ge at 41,330 GEL. A relatively smaller financing has been allocated to News.ge at 6,580 GEL, ExpressNews at 6,200 GEL, Medianews.ge at 4,300 GEL, Caucasuspress.ge at 3,100 GEL. The total value of contracts awarded to news agencies by ministries (except Ministry of Internal Affairs) and the State Chancellery in 2013-2014 comprises 254,774.2 GEL.
The distribution of amounts among news agencies by years looks as following:
To the Georgian government:
- To review the existing practice of funding news agencies,which impedes the free competition and equal availability of public information for all media outlets;
- To adequately consider the suitability of imposing such contractual obligations on media outlets, that constitute the interference in the editorial autonomy on the account of state budget;
- To develop criteria for selecting those organizations which are financed from the state budget for the aim of conducting information campaign, and to make this process transparent in order to avoid any impression that the use of budget amounts serves the aim of subsidizing this or that media outlets rather than informing the public;
- To make documentation about delivered services transparent and detailed in order to rule out the use of budget means for the coverage of internal political confrontations or the attacks on concrete individuals;
- Ministries and other public entities must publish on their web-pages the information concerning their annual promotional budgets for conducting information campaigns and detailed spending of these budgets.
To news agencies:
- Observe professional standards and clearly separate editorial and promotional materials in order to avoid the misleading of audience and to make expenditures of government transparent;
- There is a conflict of interests between journalistic activity and the provision of PR service to outside organizations; it is therefore important for media outlets to clearly separate such services;
- When covering sociological surveys conducted by news agencies or other organization, to observe standards established for the coverage of such surveys; in particular, to indicate such details as the organization that commission and financed the poll, the method of selecting respondents, et cetera.
InterPressNews agency and Kviris Palitra newspaper fall under the Palitra Media holding.