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Latest updates on Georgian media market

By Tsotne Pataraia
Friday, September 6
There are two important news in Georgian media market - the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has authorized “The Main Channel” as a general broadcaster and the new configuration of “TV Formula” shareholders has been revealed, where former defense minister holds 51% of the total amount.

On September 5, the GNCC authorized Nika Gvaramia’s “The Main Channel” as a general broadcaster instead of specialized entertainment broadcasting. The GNCC reports the information. The main channel has obtained a license allowing it to broadcast news and political talk shows. Until now, the main channel only had the right to broadcast entertainment programs.

“The Commission has studied the documentation submitted by the company, which fully complies with the requirements of the law, and has made the channel a private general broadcaster in the departmental register. The channel will start broadcasting across Georgia on September 9,” the commission said in a statement.

Nika Gvaramia, director of the TV Company commented on the decision: "The license is modified! The main channel is already officially allowed to broadcast news and political talk shows! We start at 9 am and on September 9! - writes Gvaramia on Facebook.

Former director of “Rustavi 2” and General Prosecutor of Georgia, Nika Gvaramia is the founder of “The Main Channel” and he continues to collaborate with former Rustavi 2 journalists, who refused to tolerate changes in the media outlet under the new management.

When it comes to “TV Formula”, the new setup of the shareholding of the media outlet was revealed. Former Minister of Defense of Georgia Davit Kezerashvili has become a 51% shareowner of “TV Formula”, which gives him the control package of the company. Changes to the Registry reflected on September 3.

According to the Business Registry, the remaining 49% is equally distributed by Misha Mshvildadze - 12.25%; Irakli Saginadze - 12.25%; Giorgi Liponava - 12.25%; Zuka Gumbaridze - 12.25%. Until September 3, they owned a full share. Following the sale document uploaded to the Public Registry, Kezerashvili paid GEL 4,000 to buy 51 percent of the company.

“TV Formula” will start broadcasting across Georgia on October 1. The Communications Commission granted “Formula Ltd” authorization in the field of broadcasting and made it a private general broadcaster in the departmental register. “TV Formula” (Formula Ltd) was registered in the Business Registry on July 19, 2019.

Davit Kezerashvili, a former senior UNM(former ruling party) official, served as chief of the financial police from 2004 to late 2006, and then until December 2008 as defense minister. Five separate cases were brought against him following the change of government in Georgia in late 2012. The charges relate to money laundering, embezzlement, corruption, etc. The Prosecutor's Office failed to establish three of the five charges, and two cases are still under investigation. In November of 2013 Interpol General Secretariat Announced International Search for Red Circuit against Kezerashvili. In 2015, he was removed from the wanted list. In recent years, the Georgian Prosecutor's Office has requested the extradition of Davit Kezerashvili twice, to France and the United Kingdom, but none has been met.

Former Defense Minister David Kezerashvili was also mentioned in secret documents known as the Panama Papers, which also referred to former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Georgian Dream (current ruling party) Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Last time when the shifts in the Georgian media market started was in mid-July of 2019 when as a result of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, TV company “Rustavi 2” became the property of businessman Kibar Khalvashi.

Earlier, the Strasbourg court overturned the suspension mechanism of the Supreme Court of Georgia. In particular, on March 2, 2017, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court of Georgia assigned Rustavi 2 TV to Kibar Khalvashi. On March 3 of the same year, based on Rustavi 2's appeal, the Strasbourg court suspended the enforcement of the Supreme Court's decision. The Strasbourg court overturned that execution. Later The Strasbourg Court stopped a temporary measure whereby the mechanism of suspending the judgment of the Supreme Court of Georgia would no longer exist.

On July 18, after winning the court trials over the ownership of “Rustavi 2”, businessman Kibar Khalvashi appointed Paata Salia as the CEO of “Rustavi 2”, replacing Nika Gvaramia. In the wake of recent changes within the company, many reporters have left the channel. Some of the management of “Rustavi 2”, who had been collaborating for many years, have found two separate TV Companies – “The Main Channel” and “TV Formula.”