Board Chairman of IDFI Levan Avalishvili was recently featured in an article prepared by a popular online newspaper Netgazeti titled - Popularity and Mission of Russian TV Channels in Georgia.
The article presented the results of a public opinion survey conducted by the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC), according to which, almost half of all Georgians (47.7%) watch foreign television channels, with 75% of them engaging in this activity on a daily basis. The survey also found that the Russian channels of NTV and ORT are the most watched among all foreign television channels.
In his interview with Netgazeti, Levan Avalishvili, who is also a co-founder of an online platform - damoukidebloba.com that analyzes the propaganda and other instruments of soft power employed by Russian in Georgia, stated that: “This survey revealed that among Russian channels NTV and ORT are the most watched by the Georgian TV audience... This is not media. This is a branch of the Russian state apparatus. This is an instrument strictly controlled by relevant state agencies that have very specific goals.”
Avalishvili believes that these goals are twofold. On the one hand, the media is used to control the Russian population by keeping them in an information vacuum, and, on the other hand, it is used to spread cultural and informational propaganda outside the country for the purpose of increasing influence: “Many methods are used, like special messages and misinformation, that show a kind of reality that leaves people uncertain and hinders them from making informed decisions. This is mainly accomplished through propagation of certain myths related to religious or human rights issues that are aimed at cultivation of anti-Western sentiments. Unfortunately, our society is not resistant enough to this.”
According to the Netgazeti article, the Russian state television channel ОРТ and other Russian channels returned to Georgian cable networks in 2014 after Georgian cable companies stopped rebroadcasting most Russian-language channels following the 2008 war. However, according to the GNCC, this was done without relevant legal changes. The most recent attempt in the Parliament to prohibit their rebroadcasting on a legal level fell through in 2014.
During his interview with Netgazeti, Levan Avalishvili pointed out another finding of the GNCC survey, which, he believes, indicates that prohibition will not be effective. 64% of respondents said that they watch television through satellite broadcasting, 31% through terrestrial, 18.7% through cable, and 9.7% through the internet.
According to Avalishvili, “discussions are common about the possible ways to restrict Russian channels in Georgia due to their propagandistic nature, however, in my opinion, this survey confirmed that such a move would not have any effect, since the majority of the population receives information through satellite broadcasting, which is physically impossible to restrict.”
Avalishvili believes that other methods should be used to combat Russian propaganda: “The Georgian society needs to consolidate and come to an agreement. Instead of spending state budget funds to produce useless counterpropaganda, Georgia should employ the strategy used by the EU, including the Baltic states.”
“Instead of engaging in this information war by producing counterpropaganda, these countries have chosen to expose misinformation. This option is not easy, however, and it requires participation not only of the civil society, but also of politicians, the ruling elite, and public figures, since their messages are often decisive in such matters. Unfortunately, today I do not see anyone working in this direction, including politicians.”
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