Author: Ucha Seturi
The study from IDFI contains those main recommendations that should be reflected in the policy document for the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. We think that those risks that might threaten the media development and freedom, diversity and the health of the media environment in general will be reduced to a minimum if the abovementioned suggestions are taken into account, both in the transitional period and the period of switching off analogue broadcasting.
17 July 2015 is the date of switching off analogue broadcasting and the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting. Georgia took this obligation in 2006 in compliance with the agreement of the Geneva International Telecommunication Union. Compared to other post-Soviet countries, Georgia had the least work related to the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting done since then.
During the 13 November 2013 visit to Tbilisi, the representative of OSCE on the issues of media freedom, Dunia Miatovich, called on the Georgian government to set specific dates and take practical steps for the transition to digital broadcasting, with the participation of all interested parties, including the representatives of the civil society.
The lack of time for the transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting, the diversity of the activities on the sides of supply and demand, the lack of a national strategy of the Government of Georgia for the transition and an action plan and the scope and content of the activities to be carried out on the users’ side require swift and unerring actions.
An impression remains that the goal of the people engaged in the transition process is the realization of the technical aspect on a high level, but we would like to emphasize once again one of the most important values of a democratic society - freedom of expression, for which the countries of the European Council should not simply ban interference, but actively encourage it on their respective territories. We think that the cornerstone of the development of the policy for transition to digital broadcasting should be the demonopolisation of media outlets and prevention of restraining media outlets.
After the approval of the national strategy and the action plan, which, ideally, should happen in November 2013, the necessary changes should be implemented in the laws “about broadcasting” and “about electronic communications”, as well as in some other related laws, before the end of the fall sessions of 2013 and no later. Because of the importance of the issue, the discussion of the act regulating the transition contest and other related issues and its subsequent registration, according to the most optimistic prognosis, might be complete by 1 April 2014, while the declaration of a contest for the selection of the operator of the multiplex and the choosing of the winners cannot be done before 1 June 2014. Aside from the development, optimization and the trial period of the final plan of the network, raising the awareness of the last users and the distribution-subsidizing of the receivers, a set of other important issues need to be addressed, which also requires time and resources.
We would like to unequivocally voice out approval and the willingness to assist in implementing those positive trends and ideas related to the process of transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting that the Ministry of Economy and Unsustainable Development came up with. At the same time we think that the establishment of a vertically integrated monopolist protected from competitors is undesirable on the wholesale market on which the media outlets of the country will become 100% dependant.
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