Challenges to Regional Media in Georgia

Levan Aleksishvili, Executive Director of the TV Company “Gurjaani”
Irakli Absandze, Freelance journalist, Head of the Association “Argomedia”
Ia Antadze, Head of the Civil Development Institute Board
Moderated by Gogi Gvakharia

Media independence, censorship and self-censorship, objective and non-biased information, information publicity and accessibility, lack of resources and transparency, non-professionalism - these are some of the key problems the media sphere faces in today’s Georgia.

The speakers and other individuals attending the discussion addressed several topics, including the expectations of society from the media, how a regional media should satisfy interests of its listeners or readers, by what means it is possible for regional media to make its content interesting to a wider audience, and how they can render the circulation of objective information into a business. 

Levan Aleksishvili emphasized the two roles of the media:  a disseminator of objective and non-biased information and values, and a business. As he said, instead of fitting into each other, and making one another more powerful, the opposite is occurring in Georgia: “instead of provoking society to demand objective information, the media has almost entirely lessened societal demand for analytical programs. It is very bad for the country. Civil society cannot be developed in such conditions.”  The speaker’s key message addressed how a media source should act in a way that it simultaneously manages to maintain independence and a non-biased approach and promote business development.  

Irakli Absandze regards that regional media in Georgia has had to undertake a difficult role. On the one hand, regional media is eager to solve the dilemma about taking on a business character; on the other hand it has to fulfill the task of a public broadcaster, the goals of which do not align with those of a business. He also discussed the role of non-professionalism in the regional media and named finances as one of the most important reasons. Absandze also emphasized regional journalists’ attitude towards ethical norms.  In his opinion, “regional journalists manage to follow ethical norms even better than those in central broadcasts.”

Ia Antadze talked about the public discussions that were held on this issue throughout six different regions of Georgia. Participants in those discussions were representatives of local governments as well as non-governmental organizations and the media, and also included other active citizens. She also mentioned a survey that was carried out after the discussions. According to those surveys (in which the interviewees named several of the most important problems facing the media), professionalism was mentioned as one of the most central problems in all segments. Weakness of society, political will and fear were also identified in the “top problems” list. Most of the interviewed individuals regard that the main solution lies in independent development and strengthening of the media. “Society demands deeper journalism and more professionalism from us,” said Antadze. 

At the end of the discussion, journalist Zviad Koridze also commented that the key issue is the type of product that society expects from the media, and whether media representatives are actually aware of such societal expectations. He believes that “those expectations are healthier than our approach to such problems.”  Koridze also noticed that regional media does not always reflect the issues that are of most vital interest to regional inhabitants. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the room was not full, the discussion developed in an active manner. As for the lack of guests, according to Ia Antadze this demonstrates that society is still not very conscious about the role that the regional media can play in the development process of the entire society.