The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) is to rent equipment for a TV studio from a company owned by the son of former prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili.
In two separate contracts, GPB will pay ₾372,000 ($149,000) to rapper Bera Ivanishvili’s Silk Factor Studio over the next two years.
According to the tender, the equipment will be used for a political programme to be hosted by GPB’s Maka Tsintsadze, a former anchor at Georgian Dream Studio (GDS TV).
Since a controversial shift in GPB’s management last year, more than 30 journalists from GDS have moved to the Public Broadcaster, according to Netgazeti.
GDS which is owned by Bera, covered Georgian government’s activities ‘most positively’ in the run-up of 2016 parliamentary elections, according to independent Charter of Journalistic Ethics.
The ruling Georgian Dream party was created by Bidzina Ivanishvili in 2011.
Current head of GPB, Vasil Maghlaperidze, served as deputy director of Metskhre Arkhi, a TV channel owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili, and was later General Producer at GDS. He has been criticised for not being politically neutral, a charge he denies.
GPB recently faced public backlash after axing two joint programmes with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In September, Adjara TV, based in the east Georgian Autonomous Republic of Adjara, picked up both programmes.
[Read on OC Media: Georgia’s Public Broadcaster shuts down joint shows with RFE/RL]
Silk Factor Studio, founded in February 2017, was the only contender for GPB’s public tender. The studio is headed by Goga Khaindrava, a director who recently created Herokratia, a TV series alluding to alleged abuses under former President Mikheil Saakashvili. The series aired in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
GPB is funded from the state budget, receiving more than ₾50 million ($20 million) In 2017.