Statement of NGOs on Series of Television Program Broadcasted by GDS TV
GDS TV is launching series of television program in September where former Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili meets live with local journalists from all ten regions of Georgia. The TV program will be broadcasted on Mondays and Thursdays during the pre-election period.
Its promo suggests that the program will serve to campaign in favor of the ruling party as the video shows that among other issues Bidzina Ivanishvili will discuss “why there is no alternative to the Georgian Dream”. The promo clip also features the Georgian Dream’s number on ballot paper for the elections and its symbols. Based on the format and contents of the television program it is safe to conclude that the purpose of the program is campaigning in favor of the ruling party and content-wise it is no different from pre-election advertising.
Had the program been officially recognized as pre-election advertising, it should have followed applicable regulations provided in Articles 50 and 51 of the Election Code, which stipulate that a pre-election advertising can be free or paid, with a specific run-time, and should display information about the person/organization that ordered the ad, etc.
Because the television show has not official been recognized as a pre-election advertising, it may amount to the service received from a legal entity free of charge or at a preferential price, deemed as a donation under para.2, Article 25 of the organic law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens. In light of this, we believe that the program should be deemed as a donation made by GDS TV to the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia.
We also believe that program has been launched in violation of principles of the Code of Conduct for Georgian Broadcasters adopted by the Georgian National Communications Commission, urging broadcasters to recognize the difference between “fulfillment of functions of the state and those of the party, in order to abide by the principles of impartiality, fairness and observe a balance.” The program essentially precludes observance of a balance, considering that it only features the person associated with the ruling political team and his interviews. Interestingly, the program also features critical views about other political subjects and accusations, without allowing them to respond to these accusations.
We urge the State Audit Office to examine the series of television program launched by GDS TV and if the above assumptions are proven to be correct, categorize these actions as a political donation. It should also calculate value of the service provided to the ruling coalition and determine if it within the annual limit of GEL 120 000 for donations received from a legal entity.
We also urge the GNCC to examine whether actions of GDS TV are compliant with the pre-election legislation and standards established by the Code of Conduct for Georgian Broadcasters, and take adequate further actions if there are any violations.
We urge the above agencies to examined issues outlined in this statement in a timely manner and publish information about any subsequent actions that they take. We also urge relevant authorities to actively monitor other media outlets for timely detection of any similar violations and taking of adequate further actions.