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Proposed amendments to the Law on Broadcasting were discussed at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgian on 17 May 2013. Eliso Chapidze, of the Georgian Dream coalition and one of the authors of the bill, made the following statement about the new rule of the composition of the Board of Trustees of the GPB: "International and local organisations unanimously note that the new rule of the composition of the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) Board of Trustees is very democratic and a step forward. This is stated by the OSCE, Georgia Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia and others."

FactCheck

wondered about the accuracy of the facts mentioned in her statement.

The Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster is an independent body which determines the programme priorities of the Broadcaster, approves the budget submitted by the General Director, hears the quarterly activity report of the Public Broadcaster and gives its consent to the General Director to conclude deals, the cost of which exceeds 1% of the budget of the GPB.

According to the new bill, amendments envisage alterations to regulations regarding the rule of the composition of the Board of Trustees of the Public Broadcaster. According to the existing rule, the President selects candidates for the 15-member Board of Trustees through competition and submits them to the Parliament for approval. Based on the new bill, the number of members of the Board of Trustees has been reduced to nine. Members of the Board of Trustees will still be selected by the Parliament for a six-year term. The Public Defender will select two members of the Board, three will be selected by the Parliamentary Majority and three by more than one-quarter of the remaining members of the Parliament. The Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara will nominate one member of the Board. One-third of the Board of Trustees will change every two years on a rotation basis.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media released its conclusion and recommendations about the proposed amendments to the Law of Georgia on Broadcasting on 25 March 2013.  The Organisation positively assessed the bill and notes that it is a step forward as compared to the current law. The document approves the reduction in the number of Board members and the new initiatives regarding the selection of the Board; namely, the President will not have the right to select candidates individually and they will be nominated by the Public Defender as well as the Parliamentary Majority and Minority.

According to the conclusion by the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the  proposed amendments are quite progressive in terms of future perspective, although it scrutinises the regulations of the transition period. It specifically emphasises the new rules of election of the Trustees according to which candidates are required to have wide public acknowledgment and confidence, a Master’s degree and ten years of work experience including five years in journalism, human rights, finances or science and pedagogy [the current law does not require a Master’s degree or ten years of work experience and it does not impose requirements directly in these fields of activity].

The report notes that the acting members of the Board may not be able to meet these requirements; accordingly, if the bill comes into force, there will be a risk of precipitated and unorganised dissolution of the current Board. According to the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, serving out the term or the major part of the term by the members of the Board is considered to be important for the Broadcaster. The report also notes that due to the decrease in the number of its members, phasing out of the existing Board will be necessary but it should be done in a gradual manner.

Eliso Chapidze referred to the OSCE report at the parliamentary session held on 17 May. According to her, the authors took the recommendation given by the international organisation into consideration and the Board will not be dissolved before the Presidential Elections [the Elections will be held in October 2013]. They made a compromise amendment to the bill which states that Articles 24, 25 and 26 of the bill will come into force from 1 January 2014. Enforcement of these Articles would result in the dissolution of the Board. Through delay of the enactment of these Articles, the current Board will be able to work until the end of the year.

It is also noteworthy that the authority of four members of the Board expires at the end of 2013 and positions for two Trustees are still vacant. Therefore, nine members remain on the Board [the authority of four of them is to expire by 2015 and five of them by 2017]. According to the “compromise” offered by the authors, the enforcement of the law will not dissolve the entire Board but a major part of it.

After the abovementioned adjustments to the bill, the Office of the OSCE Representative has so far not made an official statement. Correspondingly, their assessment of the so-called “compromise version” is not known to us in this given period.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association approves the new rule of the composition of the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s Board of Trustees and the proposed amendments in principle. Natia Kapanadze, representative of the organisation, told us that they support the compromise version related to the transition period, since the immediate dissolution of the Board, particularly before the Presidential Elections, would no longer be a case.

Transparency International Georgia shares the same viewpoint. Mamuka Andghuladze, representative of the organisation, told us that they endorse the principles of the bill and the new rule of the composition of the Board of Trustees as well as the compromise version of the transition period.

Conclusion

After having checked the statement made by Eliso Chapidze, it is clear that the abovementioned organisations operating in Georgia endorse the bill in general, the new rule of the composition of the Board of Trustees and the compromise version offered by the authors.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media positively evaluates the bill. It supports the new regulation about the selection of the Board of Trustees in terms of future perspective and offers its recommendations regarding the transition period. Based on those recommendations the authors of the bill claim that they made the so-called “compromise decision.” Articles under the new law will come into force from January 2014. Based on this decision, the authority of nine trustees, instead of 13, will be terminated before the end of their term and the Board will not dissolve before the Presidential Elections. The OSCE recommendation with regard to immediate dissolution of the Board has been partly taken into consideration. However, the enactment of the law will still result in the termination of the duties of nine Trustees before the end of their term.

We rate the statement made by Eliso Chapidze: "International and local organisations unanimously note that the new rule of the composition of the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) Board of Trustees is very democratic and a step forward. This is stated by the OSCE, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Transparency International Georgia and others," MOSTLY TRUE.

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