GNCC to require legal broadcasting from Georgian cable TV companies
03 March, 2011
GNCC to require legal broadcasting from Georgian cable TV companies

The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has warned cable TV broadcasters against the illegal transmission of foreign networks. Along with five other companies, Ayety TV –one of the nation’s cable TV giants, received the warning as well. The indictment accuses Ayety of broadcasting 19 unlicensed channels including: “BBC”, “CNN” and “Euronews”.

Each of the companies that received the Commission’s condemnation was given a week-term to rectify the issue. It was not until Monday, 28 February, 2011 that the uncertain future of

Ayety broadcasting became clear.
According to the Law of Georgia on Copyright and Neighboring Rights, the providers are obliged to obtain the right to rebroadcast channels on a legal basis within the territory of Georgia, which implies signing of appropriate agreements with foreign networks. In order to ensure fulfilling of these requirements by cable TV companies, the GNCC conducts perpetual monitoring throughout the year. As Paragraph 58 of the aforementioned Law states, “any natural or legal person not complying with the requirements of this Law shall be deemed as an infringer” and furthermore “(infringement) shall entail civil, criminal and administrative responsibility”.
“There are two ways of dealing with the problem for the companies: either they stop illegal transmission or immediately conclude official agreements with their foreign providers”, GNCC’s Head of Legal Department Kakhi Qurashvili says. In cases where the cable network operators fail to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the law, they are obligated to pay a fine for unlicensed broadcasting, which ranges between GEL 10,000-30,000 depending on the income of the company.
In the case of Ayety TV, according to the GNCC, by the time the monitoring was conducted the terms of its foreign agreements had already expired and the company failed to renew the contracts with its providers. The violation served as the impetus for the GNCC’s warning to discontinue Ayety’s illegal broadcasting.
Media expert Zviad Koridze believes the GNCC’s recent action underscores the possibility of a new participant to be promoted on Georgia’s media market. “National Communications Commission has all the theoretical rights to restrict foreign rebroadcasting of Ayety. However by doing so, it is indirectly encouraging one of the major companies Silknet to become a monopolist. Although it is not a monopolist presently, it still stays a potential candidate for this, since it is gaining strength, expanding its broadcasting and if it does reach the position of main player in the field, it might only have negative influence on Georgian media-market”, Mr. Koridze states.
Silknet argues that it cannot be considered as a competitor of Ayety as it operates in an entirely different field of media. “We are not a cable TV company like Ayety. We are an Internet protocol-based organization, which offers qualitatively different service to its users. Apart from this, we only broadcast in several districts of Tbilisi, which already means we are not aiming to control the media market”, a Public Relations representative of Silknet, Teona Tsereteli, is quoted as saying.
“Presently there is no company in Georgian broadcasting market, which could be admitted a leader in the media field. Neither would an outstanding one appear even in case if Ayety’s foreign-channel broadcasting were restricted, since the situation in this field is stable and all companies have their own target audience”, GNCC Head of Legal Department Kakhi Qurashvili explains, adding: “I want to ask companies to act within the Law and stop “stealing” foreign channels. By doing so they are not only getting illegal income, but also encroaching on the competitive environment and at the same time putting in unequal condition those companies which pay a price for legal transmission”.
Notwithstanding the fact that a representative of Ayety confirmed the infringement of the company on 18 February 2011, in a week-term that had been granted to Ayety, the provider managed to present the official documents that are required by GNCC, which means the company will maintain the right to broadcast. The only comment the company makes is that the transmission will continue without any restrictions or interruptions. “The administration doesn’t consider it necessary to answer further questions”, one of the Ayety officials says.
The apparent resolution of this matter serves as consolation to the Ayety subscribers who have watched their favorite foreign programming with great uncertainty about the continued availability over the prior week.

 

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