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Marshrutka radios silenced in favour of video advertising

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, June 8
Tbilisi Mikroavtobusi, the company that operates marshrutkas in Georgia's capital, has decided to ban the use of radios on their buses due to the interference they cause with on-board video advertising.

In a statement released by the company on Wednesday, the decision was explained as a matter of business - an agreement signed with Elipentys, an advertising company, to show commercials in specially-equipped yellow marshrutkas overruled the regular use of driver's radios on the buses.

Elipentys' General Director of Advertising, Zaza Buliskiria, says that customers of the company have complained that the video screens are silent. "It is more important for me that [our] costumers are satisfied; as for passenger protest, it does not concern me,” he remarked.

Allegedly, drivers were not informed of the reason behind the policy shift. Some believed it was due to radio signals interfering with the payment monitor on the dashboard; others believed it was due to drivers listening to "anti-government" radio stations Maestro and Palitra.

Maestro founder Mamuka Ghlonti believes the latter, linking the current administration to Tbilisi Mikroavtobusi's policy and referring to the government's "Nazi ideology". "It would be better [to conduct a poll] and ask to people what they prefer – listening to the radio or watching National Movement advertisements," he asserted.

The General Director of Palitra, Nino Kvariani, agrees. She claims that drivers use their radios mainly to receive news and information. “However, the private company has made the decision, we have no right to prohibit the decision, but it is unpleasant for us,” she stated.

For Radio Imedi, the decision was not a “tragedy”. As Chair of the media outlet, Nino Gabriadze said, each private owner has his or her own marketing plan. “It is a law of business and everyone should obey it; it is their decision, I have no right to advise or disturb them. We have our listeners, who have their own radios, and I don’t think that their number will decrease after the fact,” she said.

However, media analyst Ia Antadze believes the decision was “clearly political”, and a form of "psychological pressure" on passengers.

“It has happened frequently, that I am irritated by listening to something uninteresting in a marshrutka; I would prefer it to be switched off. But now passengers will have to listen to something that might be more unpleasant and uninteresting to them. The decision would have been better justified for the reason of protection of passengers' rights," she said.

United National Movement MP Lasha Tordia denies any political dimension to Tbilisi Mikroavtobusi's policy, maintaining that it is a business decision. He noted that radios on public transportation in Europe are also not allowed to be turned on.