The Parliament overriding the Presidential veto on the Bill on Broadcasting

21 Feb 2018
The Parliament overriding the Presidential veto on the Bill on Broadcasting

There were millions of GEL for these years and this is the money of our tax-payers, which is wasted in zero social influence”, - the Speaker stated at the plenary session where the Parliament overrode the veto.

Irakli Kobakhidze spoke about the meetings and considerations with media and NGOs and elucidated the reason for development of the changes, aiming at “prevention of wasting millions of GEL in zero rating".

"The rating is not the main factor but it is the social influence what matters. It means that we shall not waste millions for zero social influence and for these years there were millions of GEL and this is the money of our tax-payers which is wasted in zero social influence, which was calmly observed unfortunately, including by our opponents now criticizing the Bill. Unfortunately, no one cared about the developments in the Public Broadcaster that millions of GEL were wasted in zero social influence in Public Broadcaster. Naturally, this situation needs to be changed and these two aspects of the Bill now under veto serve for these changes”.

The agreement was achieved after discussing the procurement related issues. “We agreed that existing procedure should to be replaced with the new model – the model reflected in the Bill. Moreover, our opponents noted that this new rule on procurement shall apply to other similar subjects, which means that this rule is correct ahd shall apply to other subjects, such are for instance creative unions, theatres. It was the agreement. They recommended to apply this “corruptive” rule to other subjects as well, that is it was the agreement with NGOs and media. Correspondingly, this issue for me personally is withdrawn from consideration agenda”.

The only recommendation concerned the conflict of interest, which meant specification of the minimal standards at the legal level. “I had the additional consultations with NGOs and we agreed to jointly consider the additional criterion that may be introduced to the Law and if we see the necessity, the criterion will be specified”.

He elucidated the problem created on the current procurement rule. The problem was serious and was reflected in the outcomes. According to the current law, high quality product cannot be purchased and changes solve these problems. “According to the law, 25% shall be consumed by the Public Broadcaster through outsourcing – the production shall be created outside. Due to the extremely inflexible procedure, the Public Broadcaster was unable to implement this obligation for these years. Simply speaking, this procedure made purchase of high quality product impossible. So, what was happening during these years: Public Broadcaster used to recruit the personnel for creation of high quality product, was attracting the resources and thus, failed to implement the requirement of the Law. This was the situation, which was entailed with the rough rule related to procurement, so the problem was tangible. Thus, the procurement rule has been changed”.

Speaking about the corruption risk, he noted that the more simplified the procedure is, the higher is the risk, though in case of PB, there are protective mechanism.

This is the Board of Trustees controlling the PB activity; the Parliament overseeing the activity of the Board itself; State Audit Service and the Prosecutor’s Office and the society at last which enjoys accessibility to any information deriving that the Board of Trustees is composed of wide representation. Corruption prevention mechanisms are widely represented and hence, it insures the risk that may be related to corruption”.

Even the two-stage tender could not give the opportunity to PB to purchase high quality production. As to the commercials, there is the logical chain of arguments. “The question was about the reason why PB needs the additional commercial component. But PB had already had the commercial according to the change adopted by the preceding Government and it is interesting that the commercial then was connected to the production not necessarily to be created by PB – sports programs. You buy sports program, Championship league, European Championship, World Championship already as a production, you do not create it.

The PB states that it needs impetus to buy higher quality production – the commercial component is the stimulus and in this case, the commercial has higher objective than it had when it was added to the sports program. As to the international practice, the international data was often mentioned, which surprised me because international practice in this case speaks against our opponents because if we take the state funding and commercial, in both case Georgia is the outsider. Other countries in Europe enjoy higher state funding compared to Georgia.

I mean the absolute figures towards GDP and their rate in commercial is higher according to the international practice, which means that our PB has lower state funding than European broadcasters and also, our PB has lower commercial rate than in Europe. International practice backs the arguments we have submitted”.

He spoke about international experience and noted that all European PBs have higher budget and commercial income. He responded to the statements by the opposition. “Providing international practice as an example by the opponents was absurd when we speak about that the change will entail fluctuations in terms of media pluralism, which is also absurd. 1-2% on media market cannot entail fluctuations. It is impossible. And if we consider that under our administration during the last four years, we have significantly increased the TV and commercial market – with 25 million – 40% within 2012-2016. Their profit marge is high at the extent that often the broadcasters reject millions of income deriving from some reasons, for instance when last year during our electoral campaign, one of the private broadcasters rejected the million-value offer on the basis that it had 90% discount on the political advertisement. It is the result of the achievement we have in terms of media pluralism”.

The market development will be observed for the upcoming year and if the legislative changes entail negative impact on the commercial market, then the Law will be revised. The Speaker underlined that the objective is positive.

We agreed with the NGOs and opponents that we will monitor the market development for the upcoming year and consider any negative impact entailed with the legal changes on the commercials market. In this case, we will revise the Law adopted by you. This is the common picture, international practice, analysis. Every aspect – what to take, take from whom, how much to tae – all speak about that nothing can be damaged. The objective is positive allowing the PB being developed – leaving the zero social influence to the positive outcome. This is our goal.

It was reiterated during the debates in TVs, society as if the PB is in crisis occurred in 2018 while it was in zero social influence for decades, wasting millions of GEL. What crisis we speak about if it is not the pure political statement.

We cannot stay calm about wasting millions – the money of our tax-payers year over year, which was calmly received for years including by our opponents, which is unfortunate. We cannot stay calm, so we shall do our best to for the first time in history, grant PB the minimal social influence. It is the common picture.

Once again – the Bill aims at development of PB and granting the social influence thereto. The Bill does not entail any practical changes to private broadcasters in terms of incomes and media market. Despite, we express our commitment to specify some regulations and we will hold the respective consultations with our colleagues, NGOs and media. During the 1-1.5 year, we will monitor the media market to detect any problem for private broadcasters. In this case, we will interfere on the basis of the legal changes.

And at last, media pluralism is which was absent in Georgia before 2012 under the condition of total monopoly in media. Media pluralism is the achievement we gained since 2012. Correspondingly, it is the achievement we take particular care of”.

The motivated remarks of the President to the Bill on Broadcasting were introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary of the President, Ana Natsvlishvili.

She also answered the questions and heard the opinions of MPs.

After voting, the Parliament overrode the veto with 83 votes.