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Georgian Media may Get a New Commitment from the State

Georgian electronic media may get a new commitment from the government – to place free social advertising – appropriate changes to the laws on broadcasting and advertising are being preparedby the country’s Parliament.
The idea is that broadcasters will be able to sell their airtime to administrative authorities for social advertising only if the state uses specifically agreed time for free advertising – 90 seconds in 3 hours of broadcasting. Given that currently no commitments and restrictions are imposed in this regard – broadcaster decides for itself whether or not to provide free air time for PSAs.

New changes also envisage that if the parties do not agree what can be considered as a social advertising, then this issue will be resolved by the Communications Commission.

Under the current law, social ad is the advertising that is aimed at socially important goals, has no commercial or electoral nature, and does not represent the interests of any particular individual or entity.

According to the bill submitted by the Ministry of Justice, social advertising which aims to increase public awareness and positive change in the public concerning  a particular issue is also considered as social advertising.

However, broadcasters meet the planned changes without much enthusiasm.

Thus, broadcasters believe that the document does not take into account their interests, and in addition, doesn’t reveal precisely and fully the meaning of the concept of “social advertising».

According to the Executive Director of the Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters (GARB) Natia Kuprashvili, changes regarding the definition of «social advertising» do not meet today’s challenges, such as the transition of broadcasters to digital and online broadcast.

“The fact is that social advertising is an obligation of  operators and not broadcasters and they can use teletext or graphics  as a type of  advertisement without having any connection with the actual broadcaster. This gives  the opportunity to show public service ads on all channels that are included in the package which is much easier and more efficient. Moreover, in the  countries with  public broadcaster, such as Georgia, the obligation to distribute free social advertising is imposed  only on the Public TV. We also consider  unacceptable the Communications Commission’s interference in the definition of what can be considered as social advertising.

This rule takes into account the interests of administrative bodies, and ignores the opinion of broadcasters ,”- she says.

In addition, broadcasters are required to pay taxes on all advertising time, including the one that is supposed to spend on free social advertising – according to the management of TV Company “Maestro”, this  change will bring significant losses to broadcasters.

According to CEO of “Rustavi-2” Nika Gvaramia , such an obligation should not be imposed on broadcasters, and in particular, it must not relate to the administrative authorities.

“If the  Ministry is going to conduct an information campaign, then why should we pay for it?” – he states.

Given these circumstances, the media and several non-governmental organizations appealed to the Government to discuss the issues related to social advertising and refrain from making changes to the legislation at this stage.

“At this stage it is not enough just to consider the opinion of broadcasters. Now we have to stop all work on this document, since June 2015 the country will  fully transfer to digital broadcast, and it will create completely new realities. Only  then it will be possible to discuss this issue. “