On February 14, a month after President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s veto, Georgian lawmakers renewed discussions on the controversial amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, which grants the state-funded Georgian Public Broadcaster more freedom in earmarking budgetary funds, and enables it to receive additional revenues from commercial advertising.
The President, who echoed the criticism of media outlets and civil society organizations, noted in his objections that GPB’s entry into the advertising market would “further complicate” the financial state of private television channels, particularly the regional ones, which “will have adverse effects” on media pluralism in the country.
President Margvelashvili also claimed that the amendments bill would “endanger” GPB’s independence from political and commercial influences, and that releasing it from its obligation to observe the Law on Public Procurement would “significantly increase the risk of corruption.”
During yesterday’s session of the Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee, the lead parliamentary committee on the amendments bill, representatives of non-governmental organizations and media outlets reiterated their earlier concerns, particularly stressing on the consequences of GPB’s entry into the already “shrinking” advertising market.
Opposition MPs and some ruling party members of the sectoral economy committee, which had turned down the bill previously as well, criticized the amendments again. They, however, disapproved the presidential objections as well, claiming that the document did not contain one more problematic change – that the amendments enabled the public broadcaster to allocate budgetary funds for supporting start-ups. The change, according to ruling party MPs, was no less corruption-prone than the one on procurement regulations.
As a result, the sectoral committee did not endorse the presidential objections, with MP Roman Kakulia, head of the committee, stressing that he still opposed the amendments bill, and that he would voice this position during the plenary discussions on President Margvelashvili’s veto.
Speaking after the committee hearing, Parliament Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze said a meeting would be convened by the end of the week, where arguments of supporters and opponents of the legislative amendments would be heard again. “The Parliament will make a final decision whether to override the presidential veto or not based on these arguments,” Kobakhidze said.
If the Parliament overturns the presidential objections, MPs will vote for the initial version of the bill. If neither the presidential objections, nor the initial version obtain sufficient votes, the bill will be voted down, and the MPs will have to initiate a new round of amendments.