|Is media ownership transparent?|
|In law||YES FOR BROADCAST MEDIA ONLY|
According to the law, it is possible to finds out who owns broadcast media only in Georgia through information reported to the media authority, Georgian National Communications Council (GNCC), and directly to the public. As a result of amendments to the Law on Broadcasting in 2011, broadcast media must disclose enough information for their real owners to be identified. This includes information on the size of shareholdings, beneficial owners and those with indirect interests and control. Ownership of broadcast media by offshore companies was a central amendment to the law.
Information on the ownership of print and online media ownership is only available through provisions of corporate law and as such it is not easy to identify the real owners.
A 2014 Transparency International report on the ownership of more than 20 broadcast, print and online media outlets found that media ownership is now largely transparent in Georgia. This is in line with the GNCC view that media outlets generally report accurately.
Although some owners still have links to the ruling or opposition political parties, the situation has improved substantially since before 2011. There is now only one known case of media shareholders hiding their involvement behind an offshore shell company.
The biggest challenge facing the GNCC in supervising the law is the lack of available information about whether media owners hold positions in government bodies; there is no unified list of government officials and only senior officials have to complete an asset declaration which is publically available on the website of the Civil Service Bureau. In 2013 the GNCC identified one case where there was a conflict of interest.
Despite the fact that offshore ownership is banned, the law cannot prevent so-called “frontman” ownership. Although national broadcasters must submit some financial information to the GNCC, this information is mostly limited to summary conclusions which usually paint a very positive picture. Full financial transparency would help identify those financing the media; there were proposals from civil society lawyers at the drafting stage of the amendments to the Law on Broadcasting proposing that broadcasters should prepare their accounts in accordance with the International Accounting Standards (IAS). There is a rule that all companies must do this but it is not complied with or enforced, hence campaigners for ownership transparency wanted the GNCC to enforce this rule with respect to the broadcasters. The Parliament refused to enact this amendment, however.
As in many countries, the obligation to report ownership rests with the media outlet itself yet the media outlet cannot be certain that a person formally entered into its company shareholder register is the actual shareholder.
|Law||Media covered by law|
|Law on Broadcasting (23 December 2004, Law no. 780)||Broadcast media (including cable and service providers)|
|Law on Entrepreneurs,28 October 1994, as amended, No. 557||Commercial print, broadcast and online media|
|Civil Code, 26 June 1997, as amended, Law No. 786||Non-commercial print, broadcast and online media|
Georgian National Communications Commissions (GNCC) – information reported by media outlets can be found at: http://gncc.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=50051
National Public Registry Agency – https://enreg.reestri.gov.ge/
The website of the NPRA, which is a public authority which is responsible for registering business and non-for-profit entities, contains information on companies (not just media) and sole traders.
Transparency International website which contains corporate information in English which is taken from the Business Registry run by the NPRA – www.companyinfo.ge
Access Info full country research: www.access-info.org/wp-content/uploads/tmo_georgia_5aug2013.doc