Suspension of talk-shows on Imedi TV will negatively affect media diversity in the run-up to elections
On August 29, the Imedi TV company released a statement regarding temporary suspension of social-political talk shows. The talk shows Reaktsia and Imedis Kvira will no longer be aired on Imedi TV from the new season. According to the channel’s official statement, the TV company is planning to change the format of social-political talk shows and will offer a new product to TV viewers from 2016. The management of the channel has made no additional public comments.
The host of Reaktsia and Imedis Kvira, Inga Grigolia, and the producers and journalists of the talk shows assert that the closure of the programs is political. According to Ms. Grigolia, both talk shows enjoyed a high rating and there was no concrete reason for closing them. It should be noted that the employees had not been informed about the closure of the talk shows before Imedi TV released the statement.
Imedi TV, as a private company, is free in planning the channel’s activities and its recruitment and editorial policies. However, it is accountable to the public as a national broadcaster. For this reason, TI Georgia believes that the management of the channel should explain the reasons and motives behind its decision in a timely manner.
The accountability and transparency of large broadcasters assumes special significance today, as we see politically motivated processes in relation to various media outlets. A case in point is last month’s developments surrounding Rustavi 2. Maintenance of a free and pluralistic media environment is in the best interests of the public and is a necessary precondition for the country’s democratic development.
We believe that the statement made by the channel’s management fails to properly explain the reasons and motives behind the decision. It is also unclear what is meant by ‘a change of the format’ of these talk shows, and in what form the programs will return to air from 2016. It is important that the channel’s management explain why it made such a decision at a time when only several weeks remain before the start of the broadcasting season.
It is especially noteworthy that the employees were not informed about the upcoming changes, which indicates that there had been no internal consultations regarding this issue. Making and publicizing such an important decision in such a form casts a shadow on the independence of the journalists and the editorial team who work at the TV company in the eyes of the public. It is precisely this vagueness and unanswered questions that raise doubts regarding the channel’s independence from political influences.
The unexpected closure of the talk shows is especially suspicious at a time when the host of Reaktsia and Imedis Kvira, Inga Grigolia, and her colleague, co-host of Imedis Kvira, Eka Khoperia, have already accused the ruling political team of trying to put pressure on the editorial team of the program. On March 20, 2015, Inga Grigolia stated that the parliamentary majority of Georgian Dream had demanded that the authors of the Reaktsia talk show refrain from covering the protest rally of the National Movement planned for March 21 in the program. In the same week, Grigolia’s co-host of Imedis Kvira, Eka Khoperia, expressed the opinion that “an objective Imedi is unacceptable for the authorities.” At that time, the channel’s management categorically distanced itself from this position of the journalists and officially denied that the authorities had put any type of pressure on Imedi TV.