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Georgia is one of a handful of former Soviet republics to have started to transform its state broadcaster into a public service broadcaster since gaining independence.
The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) was established under a Law on Broadcasting adopted by Parliament in 2004. GPB is publicly accountable to the citizens of Georgia with a mandate “to provide accurate and up-to-date information that is free from political and commercial bias and is shared without any hidden agendas.”
In 2008, BBC Media Action (then called BBC World Service Trust) began work to help strengthen the independence of GPB's television service, the First Channel.
Most Georgians depend on television as their main source of news and GPB has the widest reach amongst the population of nearly five million.
BBC World Service Trust supported GPB's board of trustees in becoming representatives of the public and guardians of the station's independence.
It also helped develop a human resources policy and, as the project developed, supported GPB in creating a second television channel devoted to parliamentary and political reporting, the Second Channel.
As part of this development, GPB's General Director visited the dedicated parliamentary channel, BBC Parliament, in London and the controller of the UK channel paid a return visit to GPB in Tbilisi.
Support was also given to GPB's television news operation in developing an independent agenda showing favour neither to the government nor opposition. Reporting about Georgia's regions and rural hinterland was also encouraged to balance a traditional focus on its capital Tbilisi, home to a quarter of the country's population.
BBC trainers instructed editors, reporters and camera operators in newsgathering and production techniques. GPB was supported to enforce the values of impartiality and balance enshrined in the station's code of conduct, to give it a competitive advantage over commercial and politically partial rival stations.
Original funding was provided by the European Union. A supplementary grant from the EU and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) enabled BBC Media Action to develop skills for reporting important local elections held in Georgia in May 2010. The First Channel was subsequently judged “the most impartial” of all major television channels by the Caucasus Research Resource Center, which monitored election coverage.
Another grant, from the British Embassy in Tbilisi, supported the development of a topical debate programme Public Politics, in which political and public figures answer questions from a studio audience. It went on air in early 2011.