Formula will be financed by the country’s former minister of defence and founding member of the former ruling United National Movement party
The recent verdict of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the ownership dispute over opposition-minded TV channel Rustavi 2 has given rise to a new opposition outlet – Formula.
In pursuing the ownership dispute, it is highly likely that instead of creating problems for just one opposition channel, the authorities will now have to tango with two – and possibly even three.
In Georgia, 70 per cent of the population receives daily news from the television: thus any developments in the medium are noteworthy, particularly given that Georgia is getting ready for the October 2020 elections, the winner of which will rule the country.
In addition to the creation of a TV channel announced by Nika Gvaramia – the former head of Rustavi 2 – another outlet will appear in October.
Formula will be created by video and TV show production company Formula Creative, with David Kezerashvili, the former minister of defence and a close ally of ex president Mikheil Saakashvili, as the main investor.
Formula Creative has released a number of well-known TV shows in Georgia, including the wildly popular series My Wife’s Girlfriends, which runs on Rustavi 2.
However, after ownership of Rustavi 2 was transferred to its former owner Kiber Khalvashi – a close ally of the current authorities – the company announced it would be pursuing the creation of its own channel.
Formula Creative says that the change of ownership of the channel will entail a drastic change in the editorial policy of Rustavi 2, which will be suited to the needs of the authorities. The company also notes that the concentration of media outlets in the hands of the current government is dangerous.
One of the main pursuits of the new channel will be to counter the growing effects of Russian propaganda in the country.
Company executive Zika Gumbaridze has noted that in addition to Kezerashvili, the company is holding negotiations with other investors.
Is Kezerashvili returning to Georgian politics?
Kezerashvili was one of the first former officials against whom criminal cases were launched immediately after the new government came to power.
He left Georgia in 2012 and has not returned since.
Authorities earlier accused him of illegally selling TV channel Imedia, ‘smuggling alcohol’, and taking a 13 million lari bribe, as well as embezzling almost six million euros during his tenure as defence minister.
Not a single guilty verdict was handed down in any of the cases.
Just two days ago he was acquitted of the bribery accusations against him: in Israel, a lawsuit had been filed against IDF general Gal Hirsch, allegedly for giving a bribe to the former minister of defence of Georgia – Kezerashvili – in exchange for a lucrative contract with the ministry.
The general was acquitted.
In the past few years, the Georgian Prosecutor’s Office has twice requested the extradition of Kezerashvili from France, but not a single request has been granted.
Kezerashvili’s name also appeared in the Panama Papers, which state that in 2008, 10 days after his resignation as minister of defence, Kezerashvili’s attorney registered three offshore companies.
Formula has already appealed for permission to broadcast from the National Communications Commission.
The application asks for permission to broadcast across the country, and will be available via cable, satellite and antenna.
The channel is likely to attract a number of journalists that have left Rustavi 2, and will host one of Georgia’s most popular TV shows – My Wife’s Girlfriends, which has been on the air for eight years in a row on Rustavi 2.