The EBU has written to the Chair of the Georgian House of Representatives to express concern at the plans to remove the minimum funding guarantee for the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).
Currently funding for public service media (PSM) in Georgia is guaranteed as a fixed percentage of the GDP. However there is now a legal initiative to change the funding model and remove the funding guarantee which could expose GPB to greater political influence and interference.
Reliable, sustainable funding is a prerequisite for public service broadcasting and essential to allow for long-term planning, rights acquisitions and production.
Making GPB dependent on yearly decisions taken by the State would jeopardise its stability and would remove safeguards against the use of funding decisions as a means to exert undue political interference. It would also compromise efforts to align Georgian legislation with European standards which obligate the state to ensure sustainable PSM funding.
EBU Director General Noel Curran said: "While it is clearly up to each country to choose appropriate safeguards for PSM's independence, it would go against European standards to remove existing safeguards without equivalent guarantees."
Practice shows that it is often very difficult to achieve a political consensus on funding of PSM from the budget and political deliberations can often leave PSM without defined funding for long periods of time.
GPB has made huge efforts over the last few years to transform itself into a trusted service for citizens and is making progress towards fulfilling its remit to provide quality content to inform, educate and entertain all sectors of society. Just this month, it launched a new responsive web platform which offers the audience news in seven different languages and it now plans to launch new programmes in the public interest.
The EBU has been providing strategic, legal and professional assistance to GPB to support their reforms, and changing the funding mechanism at this critical junction could have a detrimental effect, not only on the reforms, but on their ability to fulfil their remit to society.