New TV scandal in Georgia
Another media scandal is burgeoning in Georgia. This time, in the public eye is Maestro TV – the popular TV Channel, that has been ranked the third in TV ratings.
There were reports last week that Giorgi Gachechiladze, a singer and showman, TV company co-owner, had become an owner of ‘Maestro”s 55-percent share.
This fact came as a surprise to the TV channel’s management and journalists working there.
Gachechiladze already dismissed from the post the director general of the TV channel, Baia Gadabadze, and appointed his brother, Levan Gachechiladze. (Let us remind you that Levan Gachechiladze was Mikheil Saakashvili’s rival in 2008 presidential elections. He outvoted Saakashvili in Tbilisi, though, finally he was the second in the presidential race).
Baia Gadabadze questions a new source of the TV channel’s funding and, despite her dismissal from office, she is not going to leave the TV company. She went on strike on February 4. In her words, the editorial independence of the TV channel is at risk.
Giorgi Gachechiladze makes no secret of the fact that he received the amount, necessary for purchasing “Maestros controlling stake, from late Badri Patarkatsishvili’s family. Namely, from Irakli Rukhadze, a businessman, who is a member of Patarkatsishvili family and who manages the family’s financial matters.
Let us remind you that Patarkatsishvili family owns the popular ‘Imedi TV. The very fact that ‘Imedi’ TV owners render financial assistance to the rival ‘Maestro’TV, raises the questions in public.
What also gives grounds for suspicion is that ‘Maestro’ TV is far from being a profitable company today, because it is facing serious financial problems. At present, the company’s bankruptcy case is being considered by court; the TV channel’s total debt to creditors exceeds dozens of millions of Lari. Therefore, purchase of the broadcaster’s shares cannot be regarded as a profitable investment.
There were also reports that just a few days before purchasing “Maestro TV’s controlling stake, Giorgi Gachechiladze held a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, at the State Chancellery. Giorgi Gachechiladze, himself, does not deny this information, disseminated by journalists, on the contrary, he states:
‘The Prime Minister is my old chap, my friend, I meet him once in two days, so what’s the problem ?! I do not understand … I’m the owner of «Maestros 55 percent stake and what is that to the Prime Minister?! We discussed absolutely different issues… ‘
There are a few months left before the parliamentary elections in Georgia, that are scheduled for autumn 2016. In spring, the country is going to enter an active pre-election phase, so the processes taking place on one of the most popular TV channels today generate lots of questions and give grounds for experts’ suspicion.
Experts and journalists see certain parallels between the developments on ‘Maestro’TV and the processes that took place a few months ago on ‘Rustavi-2’ TV channel. They believe, that in both cases, at the first glance, the matter concerns private disputes between the TV company owners, though, as in case of ‘Rustavi-2’, as well as in respect of ‘Maestro’ TV, an open political subtext could be read.
‘A number of high-rated programs have been closed on some TV channels in the recent months. All of us remember a high-profile case related to the opposition “Rustavi2 TV channel, which is still being considered in court … And now the developments on ‘Maestro’TV … This further intensifies the suspicions that the matter concerns an attempt to establish political control over mass media in the pre-election period,’ – says Zviad Devdariani, Executive Director of the Civil Development Agency.
Having assumed his office, “Maestro’s new Director General, Levan Gachechiladze, is already making his first statements: ‘My main slogan is to switch people from ‘Rustavi-2’. My attitude towards ‘Rustavi-2’ is very subjective. I have my own, historical claims towards ‘Rustavi-2’ and I want to beat ‘Rustavi-2”s rating,’- Levan Gachechiladze stated.