Georgian Government accepts the “must carry” initiative.

David Bakradze, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament announced on 22 June that the parliament will legislate within days to adopt the “must carry/must offer” initiative, but this will apply only during the election period.

The Georgian government has decided to accept a proposal of numerous Georgian civil society organisations, aimed at widening access to information available to the Georgian public ahead of Parliamentary elections in October. Parliament is expected to legislate soon so that all cable operators will have to carry all news channels during the election period.

The Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, David Bakradze, said on 22 June that the new legislation would create additional “guarantees to allow television stations to reach out to a larger audience and to expand the area of their coverage.”

Bakradze added that “In particular, the initiative envisages the carrying of all television channels by all the cable operators during the electoral period; I want to stress that it will apply to all the television stations and it will be a huge step that will help the population to receive more information.” Details of the new legislation have not yet been made public, but the announcement was welcomed by both NGOs and opposition parties.

In May the campaign group, This Affects You Too, uniting organisation involved in election monitoring, legal advocacy organizations, as well as several media outlets, submitted to the Parliament a package of legislative amendments, which, among other issues, also envisages amending the law on broadcasting to prevent arbitrary treatment of TV channels by cable networks. The proposals of the campaign group oblige cable operators to carry TV channels with news programming.  TV channels on their part will be obliged to make their content available to all the cable operators.

There have been concerns that the ruling United National Movement was entering next October’s election campaign with a distinct advantage since the government controls or influences all TV channels that have a country-wide reach. The government had initially rejected the “must carry” initiative citing commercial reasons. A few days before the government’s change of heart, eleven opposition parties threw their support behind the “must carry” campaign, significantly adding pressure on the government.

Announcing the new legislation, David Bakradze reiterated that arrangements between the cable network providers and the television stations were of “a purely” commercial character. But he then went on to add that the election period was “a special” situation, and the government decided “to oblige” companies “to reach an agreement between each other that would eventually benefit voters through receiving more information,”  but the rules will only apply during the election period. In a further statement the following day David Bakradze clarified that this provision will operate only during the weeks of the official election campaign as defined by law.

Bakradze’s statement was warmly welcomed by the initiators of the campaign This affects you. “The implementation of this initiative will contribute positively to the creation of a level playing field and robust political competition ahead of elections,” they said in a statement. “We welcome the readiness of the authorities to take concrete steps to provide access to information and equal media environment during the pre-election period. We hope that initiatives voiced [by the Parliamentary Chairman] will be adequately reflected in a bill initiated by the Parliament,” the statement said.

Source: CEO with civil.ge

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David Bakradze, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament announced on 22 June that the parliament will legislate within days to adopt the “must carry/must offer” initiative, but this will apply