EBU leads calls for Georgian Parliament to safeguard the funding and sustainability of public service media We, the undersigned international media and journalists’ organizations, strongly express our concern regarding the draft law adopted in a rushed first reading by the Georgian parliament on 15 November, which proposes a fundamental shift in the funding model for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).
The proposed change transitions the funding structure from a fixed percentage of the GDP to an annual allocation from the state budget.
This critical alteration signifies that, starting from 2024, the government will annually determine the funding volume for the broadcaster. Such a shift introduces a heightened risk of undue political interference, marking a significant regression in the democratization of this institution and pushing it closer to becoming a state-controlled media entity.
It is imperative to note that Georgia’s public service media funding, when compared to other members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), already ranks in the lowest fifth among 112 member organizations across
56 countries. The 2023 EBU Funding Report highlights the alarming situation in Georgia, where the average public service media funding per capita is a mere EUR 4, as opposed to the European average of EUR 45.
If this draft law is adopted, it will undermine the Council of Europe standards for independent and adequate funding, the EBU’s funding principles advocating for stable and independent funding, and theproposed European Union’s Media Freedom Act, which recommends multi-year funding allocations to prevent undue influence from annual budget negotiations.
The process of amending the GPB law must adhere to principles of openness, transparency, and inclusivity. A comprehensive and open public debate should be facilitated, allowing experts and key stakeholders to provide their insights and opinions.
GPB plays a pivotal role in Georgia’s democratization process, particularly in the context of the country’s integration into the European Union. Altering the funding mechanism and level jeopardizes the development and progress of this crucial democratic institution. It seriously hampers the broadcaster’s ability to undergo critical digital transformation, relocate to its new premises, and fulfil commitments related to bank loans, acquired sport rights, and other content acquisitions planned years in advance.
We urgently call upon the Georgian parliament to withdraw the draft law and initiate a thorough public debate. This is crucial to safeguarding the independence and sustainability of public service media in Georgia, ensuring its ability to fulfil its societal mandate.
European Broadcasting Union
Reporters Without Borders
South East Europe Media Organisation