GD Majority Overrides President’s Veto on Broadcasting Law Amendments

Ruling Georgian Dream (GD) MPs have overruled Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s veto on amendments to the Broadcasting Law, which gives the state-financed Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) more independency and power as well as the right of commercial advertising.

At the parliament session on February 21, 83 MPs voted to overthrow the veto, while 13 lawmakers, mainly from the opposition parties, were against.

The parliamentary majority has overruled all vetoes of President Margvelashvili so far, as they have 116 MPs in a 150-member legislative body and form the supermajority. In order to overcome a presidential veto, the votes of at least 76 MPs are needed.

According to the amendments, the GPB will no longer have to announce public procurement calls when purchasing media products or services, as it has been lifted from its obligation to observe the Law on Public Procurement.

Furthermore, as a result of the amendments, the powers of the nine-member Board of Trustees have been reduced: now they will need the Director General’s consent to carry out reforms.

The GPB, whose financing increases proportionally to the state budget, will no longer have to return unused funds to the state budget. It has also been given the right to finance start-ups and innovative television, radio and online products.

Last year, the broadcaster received around 46.4 million GEL from the state, while in 2016, it was financed with 44.5 million GEL. In 2018, the funding of the GPB has been increased by 5.695 million GEL, amounting to 52.100 million GEL.

President Margvelashvili vetoed the bill last month. He attached motivated remarks to the bill and returned it to Parliament for re-consideration.

He had two main complaints, which referred to the GPB right of commercial advertising and the issue of state procurements.

Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze, stated that the aim of the amendments was to avoid embezzlement of tens of millions of GEL from the budget.

Kobakhidze said the GPB has zero rating and claimed that the money spent so far on its financing had been embezzled.

“The amendments adopted by Parliament aim at changing the situation,” the Speaker added.

Giorgi Abashishvili, Head of the Presidential Administration, slammed the ruling party for overcoming the veto, saying their main aim was not the issue itself but confronting the President.

“Overriding the presidential vetoes has become the tradition of the ruling team. By adopting this law, corruption risks are created and the different media outlets are put in unequal conditions. It is unfortunate that the government does not understand this,” Abashishvili stressed.

The opposition, private media outlets and NGOs disapproved the changes to the Law on Broadcasting from the beginning, saying granting advertising rights to the GPB will harm the media environment in the country, and the broadcaster should no longer receive funding from the state budget following the amendments.

In late January, 37 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in Georgia called on Parliament not to override the veto, while a few days ago, up to 60 media organizations urged MPs not to support the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting.

Thea Morrison

22 February 2018 19:48