Who is behind the Georgian branch of the Kremlin media brand Sputnik?

Foreign Policy assessed Sputnik as “another outlet to trumpet the Kremlin line."
Agenda.ge, 14 Nov 2014 - 22:48, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian non-governmental organisation Institute for Development for the Freedom of Information (IDFI) is calling on R Radio to publically release details of its agreement with Russian state news agency 'Russia Today (Rossiya Segodnya)' about a new radio campaign.

Privately owned R Radio, which currently broadcast in Tbilisi under the name Radio Monte Carlo, allocated four hours a day to broadcast Russia's new media outlet Sputnik. Sputnik is Russia Today's new large-scale media brand, which went live to air on Monday November 10.

Sputnik's mission was "to bring a different perspective to the global audience tired of the aggressive promotion of a unipolar world”, said Russia Today's general director Dmitry Kiselev at a presentation announcing the new brand in Moscow.

Global political and economic magazine Foreign Policy assessed Sputnik as "yet another compliant outlet to trumpet the Kremlin line".

Editor- in–chief of 'Sputnik Georgia' Anton Laskhishvili told Media.ge that Sputnik had paid R Radio to rent the frequency for four hours air time per day but he did not know the circumstances of the deal, adding that the radio planned to launch a 24-hour Georgian service in 2015.

R Radio has a common license for broadcasting in Tbilisi on FM 101.4 valid till 2022.The common license for broadcasting includes a duty to broadcast news programs.

IDFI stated that R Radio director Ketevan Kereselidze had connections with United National Movement (UNM). She was on the list of UNM's finance contributors.

According to a document published on the official website of the State Audit Office of Georgia, Kereselidze contributed 30,000 GEL to UNM's election campaign on August 8, 2012.

IDFI underlined that under Georgian Broadcasting Laws, all broadcasters should provide fact-checking of information and timely fix mistakes. The same law prohibited the propaganda of war in any form, as well as restricting content which may raise any kind of strife between groups of society.

Then how it would be possible to provide quality information if R Radio was retranslating content from another company on its owned frequency, asked IDFI.

Meanwhile Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC) has begun to study the legal issues related to the broadcast of 'Sputnik Georgia'.

On its website the Commission said 'Sputnik' was "not a broadcasting license holder, nor the authorized undertaking”.

"In order to study the issue, the Commission has already requested from R Radio one week’s continuous record of the broadcast net to study its compliance with licensing conditions, as well as the copy of the agreement with 'Sputnik', read the GNCC statement.

GNCC said it would make its decision public due to high public interest in the issue.

In 2015, Sputnik planned to broadcast in 30 languages with over 800 hours of radio programming daily, covering more than 130 cities in 34 countries, including Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

In addition, 'Sputnik' also announced it planned to broadcast in Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions in the local languages.

According to Sputniknews.com, Sputnik had multimedia centres in London, Washington, D.C., New Delhi, Cairo, Montevideo, Beijing, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Paris, Buenos Aires, Belgrade, Helsinki, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Sukhumi, Tskhinvali, Tbilisi, Yerevan, Baku and Chisinau, and had anywhere from 30 to 100 staff, who were all local professionals.