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CEC Issues TV Monitoring Results

The most frequently mentioned presidential candidate on TV last week was Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili, according to a media monitoring survey commissioned by the Central Election Commission (CEC).

The CEC contracted Primetime to monitor four national stations – Rustavi 2, Imedi, Mze and the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) – and one Tbilisi-based station – Kavkasia TV – between December 10 and December 15. It involved both qualitative and quantitative distribution of airtime between the presidential candidates, including analysis of the distribution of free and paid political advertisement airtime. Imedi TV resumed broadcasting on Wednesday evening, December 12.

The CEC can, on the basis of the monitoring results, only issue a warning; it, however, can not impose any sanctions on any broadcaster if bias in coverage is detected.

Mikheil Saakashvili leads in terms of TV ads with a total of five hours and 40 minutes of airtime. He is the only presidential candidate running a paid ad campaign. Others have so far depended on legally allotted free airtime.

‘Qualified presidential candidates’ – those nominated by political parties that won at least 4% of the vote in the last parliamentary elections and at least 3% of the vote in the last local elections – legally must be granted 30 seconds of free airtime for every hour by private television stations and 60 seconds by the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

Levan Gachechiladze, the nine-party opposition coalition’s presidential candidate; Davit Gamkrelidze, the New Rights leader, and Shalva Natelashvili, the Labor Party leader, are eligible under these criteria.

During the survey period only Rustavi 2, Mze and the Public Broadcaster aired political ads.

Rustavi 2 TV was charging presidential candidates USD 15,400 for a 30 second primetime political ad, according to a price list posted on its website in early December. Prices were later revised and the most expensive airtime now is the station’s primetime news program, which costs USD 9,350 per 30 seconds. The cheapest is USD 220 for a 30 second slot.

Mze TV, which is owned by the same media holding companies, charges lower rates. A 30 second political ad during Mze’s primetime news program costs USD 715.

Imedi TV is charging presidential candidates USD 6,250 for a 30 second primetime political ad, according to a price list posted on its website.

Shalva Natelashvili received the most free airtime – one hour and fourteen minutes – followed by Levan Gachechiladze and Davit Gamkrelidze – 33 minutes and 24 minutes, respectively.
In quantitative terms the survey showed that the television stations dedicated the biggest share of airtime in their news programs to Shalva Natelashvili, totally about two hours, followed by Mikheil Saakashvili – an hour and 55 minutes; Levan Gachechiladze –  50 minutes; Gia Maisashvili with 48 minutes and Davit Gamkrelidze with 45 minutes.

Rustavi 2 TV and the Georgian Public Broadcaster featured Natelashvili more frequently than any other television station and Saakashvili was featured most by Mze TV. The GPB dedicated equal airtime to Saakashvili and Maisashvili, about 27 minutes each, and only ten and six minutes to Levan Gachechiladze and Davit Gamkrelidze, respectively.

In qualitative terms, according to the survey, all the candidates were covered in mostly neutral tones by the television stations. Mikheil Saakashvili was most frequently mentioned negatively, according to the survey, followed by Badri Patarkatsishvili, Natelashvili and Gachechiladze.

Opposition frequently complaints of media bias in favor of Mikheil Saakashvili. Levan Gachechiladze, for example, recently accused Rustavi 2 TV of “a black PR campaign” against him, following a report by the station’s weekly P.S current affairs program.


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