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Tbilisi authorities purchase mass media2011-08-01 20:42
Georgia' s ministry of economy announces a tender in order to find a managing company for Alphacom, the TV tower in Tbilisi. However, journalists expect serious problems. New-sprung administrators will be able to introduce their own tariff policies, and mass media are afraid that the authorities will take control of the process limiting broadcast for undesirable channels.
Tbilisi's TV tower is located on top of Mtatsminda hill, the highest point in the city. There is a big beautiful park around it with terraces overlooking an astonishing panorama of the Georgian capital. This park has always been the object of violent struggles. Quite a long time ago Badri Patarkatsishvili bought the territory, then the park was transferred to the authorities by force and the family of the late oligarch spent years seeking justice. As a result, they failed to win the struggle and acknowledged the loss of the "asset".
Hardly had the battle for the park been over, when the TV tower got into the epicenter of scandal.
Presently, Alphacom TV tower provides broadcast for 16 TV channels and 30 radio stations. Until recently the tower has been a strategic facility. But things have changed. The asset was eliminated from the register and the tender for tower management was announced. Only private companies are eligible to apply.
The journalist community as well as the opposition are outraged believing that the idea has a hidden sense. Now we will try to decipher secret signals that the decision may imply.
Yesterday opponents of the modification of the status of this strategic facility held a protest action in front of the building of the economy ministry. According to the press release of the ministry, an auction aimed at 4 years' rent of the tower and infrastructure around it will be held.
Yet, the journalists believe that the idea is to sell the asset secretly allowing the new owner to get all the rights to handle the facility and pursue any policy. According to the protesters, the authorities plan to take control of the broadcasting in the run-up to parliamentary elections. And then there is no difference if the tower will be sold or leased out for 4 years' time. The government will have enough time to do what they plan and limit broadcast of pro-opposition mass media.