New Law on Media Transparency
14 April, 2011
New Law on Media Transparency

Parliament adopted a new legislation on media transparency. Despite certain procedural violations in the process, the law came into force

The work on the text of the law took six months. However, the adoption process was quite speedy and most importantly, fraught with violations of legal regulations. Namely, while the draft amendment to the Law on Broadcasting was adopted on second and third hearings as stipulated by the regulations, the second hearing was not preceded by obligatory scrutiny in the relevant

committee. Members of the Parliamentary Majority claim that they had a final decision on the disputed issue but needed additional consultations for its formulation. This means they did violate the law. The law says that the scrutiny in the committee should be held at least 24 hours earlier. Plus, the agenda needs to be public. In reality, as already said above, the session heard the issue without preliminary committee debates. According to representatives of the Authorities, the committee meeting was held in December.
As readers may remember, the matter concerns the Governmental legislative initiative that foresaw changes in the Law on Broadcasting. According to the changed provisions, companies registered in offshore zones would be prohibited ownership of media outlets in Georgia. The draft law also incorporated provisions on financial transparency during the deliberations.
It is noteworthy that a group of experts and some representatives of Parliamentary opposition were demanding introduction of the obligation for owners of broadcasting licenses to publish information about its actives and passives on its website several times a year and also forward it to the regulation commission, as well as the data on the investments made in the same period. Eventually it turned out though that the opposing sides managed only to agree on once in a year periodicity of the information release.
According to the adopted law, a broadcaster is supposed to annually disclose information about its financial sources such as sums received via ads, sponsorships and charities. According to the version, a broadcasting license owner cannot be an administrative body, its officer or any other public officer, or a legal entity linked to an administrative body, political party or its governing officer, legal entity registered in an offshore zone, or legal entity which partially or entirely owned by legal entity registered in an offshore zone.
In addition, a license owner is obliged to attach a declaration to the license application stating identification data of the license seeking company, its management and bodies, confirmation that the license seeker or its beneficiary owners do not represent administrative bodies, officers of administrative bodies, or other public officers.
Finally, a license owner is obliged to submit declaration to the commission to validate oneself, i.e. show data on owners of its shares, members of its governing bodies. In case of changes in such data, notification needs to be accordingly sent to the commission within 10 days, publishing it on its web-site in parallel.
Despite the fact that most of the expert opinions were discarded by the Authorities, some people think the law is still a step forward.

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