The son of former Georgian prime minister billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, has said he will gift equipment for a TV studio to the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB).
The announcement follows an agreement from GPB to rent equipment from rapper Bera Ivanishvili’s Silk Factor Studio in a deal worth ₾372,000 ($149,000) over the next two years.
According to the tender, the equipment was planned to be used for a political programme to be hosted by GPB’s Maka Tsintsadze, a former anchor at Georgian Dream Studio (GDS TV).
Bera labelled the public backlash ‘speculation’ in a statement on 30 October, claiming he knew nothing about the tender. ‘It was not my purpose to gain material benefits with this’, he added.
According to Bera, after GDS TV purchased one of the biggest TV stations, Imedi TV, some of GDS’s equipment remained unused.
‘I want to award this, and all the other equipment at my disposal that my studio does not need anymore, to the First Channel’, Bera said.
GPB runs two separate TV and Radio channels. Since a controversial shift in GPB’s management last year, more than 30 journalists from GDS — which is owned by Bera — have moved to the Public Broadcaster’s First Channel, according to Netgazeti.
According to TVMR Georgia, who measure TV audiences in Georgia using the Nielsen method, TV Imedi has been the most watched station in Georgia in recent months, with the opposition-leaning Rustavi 2 lagging behind. GPB comes fifth in the ratings. However, the Nielsen method does not include social media outreach.
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.
[For details, read on OC Media: Georgian Public Broadcaster rents equipment from Ivanishvili’s son]
Bera’s Silk Factor Studio, founded in February 2017, was the only contender for GPB’s public tender for equipment. The studio is headed by Goga Khaindrava, a director who recently created and directed Herokratia, a TV series alluding to alleged abuses under former President Mikheil Saakashvili. The series aired in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
In another move, GPB is planning to pay ₾480,000 ($180,000) for an entertainment TV series ‘vacancy for the position of the murderer’ to another of Khaindrava’s companies, Le Khaindrao Production.