Former Soviet Georgia: “Mid-Election, The Regime Invites Rupert Murdoch to Own TV”

Murdoch takes to his airwaves
to discuss the W$J deal during the Cavuto cavalcade of pumpery-dumpery on FOX News. Six minutes in, Cavuto says “I guess I oughta disclose that I am building a business channel for you.” In a deal in which journalistic integrity ostensibly loomed large, the moment constituted something of a double message, I thought.

Georgia: Vote 2008 Report Card (Eurasianet/Open Society Institute (Soros))measures promises made and promises kept in the (former Soviet) Georgian elections held today:

In an interview on the day of his resignation from the presidency to run for re-election, Mikheil Saakashvili indicates that Imedi Television, a pro-opposition station shut down in the wake of the November 7 unrest in Tbilisi, will be allowed to resume broadcasting if assurances are given “that there is no more threat that [former Imedi co-owner Badri] Patarkatsishvili will seek to enact a violent scenario through his dirty game and we have guarantees within the framework of the law that this will not happen.”

Was the promise kept?

Imedi TV returned to the airwaves on December 12, 2007. Television staff say that damage done to their equipment during the takeover means that they must limit their news broadcasts, however. Amidst the presidential campaign, questions about Badri Patarkatsishvili’s ownership stake appear to have dropped into the background. Nonetheless, with encouragement from the international community and government, a media council, chaired by Polish journalist Adam Michnik, has been set up to monitor and discuss Georgian TV broadcasts’ observance of professional ethics.

Have they done any work? The council has been described more specifically as a media monitoring mission on behalf of the European Union.

The partisan and ideological affinity of the Fox Network in the United States over the years, and its propensity for propaganda and fake news, is well known, but the quid pro quo was never quite as stark in that case as the government pressuring the shareholders to accept a a check for their stake in the entire network because some of them are unfriendly to the regime.

Will we see another drama of “the crusading journalist versus the crooked establishment,” as in Thailand? See

What is Reporters without Borders“Marcel Granier is a martyr to freedom!” — saying on the subject?

Daily Variety: The station was back off the air on December 27, 2007, after the government suggested that its legal status was “unclear” — and that Rupert Murdoch should be allowed to buy 100% of its shares(!).

News Corp. owns 51%, controls 49% with a 12-month power of attorney — the candidate put his media power in escrow, is that it? — and claims full operational control

Journalists at Imedi TV — the News Corp.-controlled independent channel in Georgia — took the station off the air Wednesday, citing official pressure and personal safety fears as tensions rose ahead of an early January snap presidential election in the Caucasian country.

The OSCE EOM has reportedly — by Reuters — declared the elections — if Reuters has characterized their position accurately — “good enough for jazz”:

Georgia’s presidential election met most international standards but had shortcomings, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a report released on Sunday.

Apparently international standards on practices like the following are not what they used to be (OSCE EOM Interim Report No. 2, 14-24 December).

The campaign environment has been soured by allegations of use by Mr. Saakashvili of budgetary funds, unequal campaign conditions, intimidation, and vote buying. The OSCE/ODIHR EOM has received information and first-hand accounts, which indicate that some of these claims are credible.

International standards on elections have converged up to the standards used by Carlismo in Brazil?

Local observers” tell a different story as well.

A “dueling opinion poll” scenario may be in effect as well, according to a “fear, uncertainty and doubt”-themed musing linked from (Hearing) Global Voices Online.

With 48% of the vote, reportedly, the incumbent wound up, in the first round, in something of a “technical tie within the margin of polling error” with the cumulative vote for the split opposition.

Georgy Targamadze, Imedi TV’s head of news and current affairs, told viewers in a live primetime broadcast, “Each of us and members of our families have been subjected to official pressure and blackmail.”

Surrounded by members of his newsroom team, Targamadze added: “There are no security guarantees for our workers … we want to dissociate ourselves from dirty political games.”

Move comes just hours after six journalists at the station announced plans to quit and two weeks after Imedi TV returned to the air following an officially enforced monthlong closure and a state of emergency imposed in Georgia by President Mikhail Saakashvili in early November.

Saakashvili had accused the station of promoting sedition in the politically troubled former Soviet state. The station is owned by Georgian businessman and opposition activist Badri Patarkatsishvili and operated by News Corp., which has a 49% stake.

Patarkatsishvili is running for president against Saakashvili in elections scheduled for Jan. 5. Earlier this week, Georgia’s deputy state prosecutor Nika Gvaramia accused Patarkatsishvili of plotting an armed uprising following the elections.

Patarkatsishvili claims the authorities are planning to assassinate him.

Targamadze, Imedi TV’s head of news, said the political intrigues were increasing pressures on station staff.

Imedi TV had become a target for “pre-election political mudslinging” making it impossible for staff to work safely at the station, he said in the broadcast statement.

Targamadze said Imedi TV staffers were worried that the station did not have a clear legal status, and suggested that one possible solution was for News Corp. to take over 100% of the shares.

News Corp. took control of Patarkatsishvili’s 51% stake in late October under a power of attorney valid for 12 months.

Earlier this month, Lewis Robertson, CEO Imedi TV/News Caucasus, told Daily Variety the power of attorney gave News Corp. full operational control of the station for a year.

Dueling noise machine scenario (Guardian, November 7):

Zurabishvili said that the shutdown of Imedi means that Georgia no longer has independent television because Rustavi 2 television, which is technically independent, has toed the official line.

Fair® and balanced®:

The Imedi television station describes itself as independent but is seen as a key opposition mouthpiece by authorities. It has carried statements by opposition leaders and broadcast footage of police breaking up protests Wednesday.

It would be fairer and more balanced if it did neither of those things?

Possible risk management takeaway, in the absence of fuller information on this mind-bendingly complicated situation:

  1. It sucks to work for Rupert Murdoch
  2. It sucks to live in the former Soviet Union
  3. It especially sucks when (1) and (2) both apply to you
  4. Kill your television

More concretely and practically: How “business-friendly” is the investment environment in the media environment Murdoch is being invited to 0wn? From the “report card”:

… problems with the investment climate persist, including the government’s habit of asking businesses to “volunteer” funds for various government projects; in late 2007, Georgia’s new Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze approached large business owners to help fund Saakashvili’s proposed ambitious new social welfare program and “cheap” credit bank. In addition, businesses still feel the threat of random tax inspections and the financial police. There is also concern that there are not enough tax incentives for investment.

Ouch. If true.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Was the taxpayer-funded gazillion-jigawatt megaphone fair® and balanced®? “Balance and access” in KBC (KBC) election coverage on the state-owned boob tube — a BBC 2.0 “content alliance.” From right to left: PNU (Kibaki), ODM (Odinga) … Source: EU EOM Kenya 2007.


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