Imedi Media Holding
|Type||Broadcast radio network and
|Owner||Georgian Media Production Group|
Imedi Media Holding (Georgian: იმედი მედია ჰოლდინგი) is a private television and Radio Company in Georgia. The stations were formerly owned in part by the late Georgian media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Radio Imedi first aired on 105.9 FM in December 2001 in Tbilisi. Since December 2003 "Radio Imedi" has broadcast 24 hours a day across all the settled territory in Georgia. The station mainly concentrates on news and analytical coverage but broadcasts pop music as well, particularly at night-time.
During the Sandro Girgvliani murder investigation, Patarkatsishvili stated that the Georgian authorities were mounting pressure on his station and other businesses after it had broadcast details of the scandal. "It is no secret that Imedi television was the first one which reported the circumstances of Sandro Girgvliani’s murder...this alone became a reason for the authorities’ dissatisfaction, which triggered the financial authorities to actively launch a probe into my businesses and my companies so [as] to force me to mount pressure against [my] journalists..and facilitate the creation of a favorable image of the authorities," Badri Patarkatsishvili went on to say that he would never yield to pressure from the authorities.
This pressure has been assumed by some as a reason behind Imedi Media Holdings decision to sell shares to News Corp. Some have speculated that with Rupert Murdoch involved with the station, the current government will find it harder to exert pressure on Imedi without generating publicity in the West.
The station carried statements by opposition leaders and broadcast footage of police breaking up protests during the 2007 November Georgian demonstrations and went off air after riot police burst into their offices on November 7, 2007.
The Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) has suspended Imedi TV's broadcast license for a three-month period, citing violation of law on broadcasting by the television station. The GNCC says in its decision that on November 7, Imedi TV reported "an obvious disinformation that law enforcement officers were planning to storm cathedral of Holy Trinity... This report has created an imminent and real threat of overgrowing riots into large-scale massive unrests, which could eventually led to uncontrollable processes." Georgian officials have further accused Patarkatsishvili of controlling the Imedi TV’s editorial policy and using it for inciting unrests. As a proof for their allegations, Georgia's General Prosecutor's Office released, on November 16, 2007, several taped phone conversations between Patarkatsishvili and Giorgi Targamadze, chief of Imedi TV’s political programs, and also between a producer and a journalist of Imedi TV. Meanwhile, Rustavi 2, which is regarded as close to the government, TV aired on 16 November a half an hour documentary about Imedi TV's role in the anti-governmental demonstrations, which is based exclusively on an interview of deputy chief prosecutor, Nika Gvaramia.
Tbilisi City Court ruled on December 6, 2007 to unfreeze Imedi's assets – the last remaining legal obstacle for the television station to get back on air. A criminal case against its co-owner, Badri Patarkatsishvili, is still pending, however. Yet, the company's management stated that the studio equipment was badly damaged in a November 7 police raid. Later on December 12, 2007, Imedi TV resumed broadcasts thirty four days after the television station was shut down.
On December 26, 2007, several leading journalists from Imedi TV left their jobs following the release of video and audio recordings by the authorities suggesting that Badri Patarkatsishvili, the station's founder and co-owner, was plotting a coup. Later that day, the television station’s management announced that Imedi TV temporarily suspended broadcasts until the station's "legal status in respect of ownership is not clarified." "By doing so we are distancing from dirty political games", said Giorgi Targamadze, head of the Imedi TV's political programs.
Badri Afanasyev, a former Imedi producer, asked political asylum in Russia on October 17, 2009.
2010 Russian invasion hoax
On the evening of March 13, 2010 Imedi aired a deliberate false report that caused a shockwave across the country. According to the false news, Russia invaded Georgia after a “terror attack” on the president of South Ossetian republic, Eduard Kokoity. The report suggested that four Georgian soldiers in South Ossetia had been killed, and that President Mikhail Saakashvili and his government had been evacuated. In several minutes, however, the source “reported” the death of Saakashvili and creation of the People’s government headed by one of the opposition leaders, Nino Burjanadze. The program, that lasted for half an hour, also reported about aerial bombardment of the country’s air and seaports and only at the end, Imedi presenters pointed out that this was a “special report about possible development of the events.” At the beginning of the broadcast there were also warnings that the program showed a sequence of possible events that could only occur "if Georgian society is not brought together against Russia's plans."
The hoax was condemned by many public figures both in Georgia and abroad, including Georgian patriarch Ilia. Burjanadze is considering to file a legal issue against Imedi. The report caused widespread panic in Georgia. Many civilians fled their homes to escape the "invasion", while units of the Georgian Army took up defensive positions. There were instances of heart attacks and fainting upon news of the invasion.
A preliminary agreement on the purchase of Imedi Holding’s shares was signed in New York on April 28, 2007, details of which remained confidential. At some point it was owned by I-Media, which had given power of attorney over 100% of its Imedi shares to News Corp. Europe, and its board chairman was Badri Patarkatsishvili.
After Patarkatsishvili's death in February 2008, the issue of ownership of the Imedia Media Holding again came to a public attention. Joseph Kay, alias Joseph Kakalashvili, a stepson of Patarkatsishvili’s aunt announced that he had bought Imedi TV from Gogi Jaoshvili, reportedly a close friend of Patarkatsishvili, who owned 70% of JMG, a company with a 65% stake in I-Media, which is the founder and 100% owner of Imedi TV. According to papers submitted to the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) by Imedi TV in December 2007, the remaining 35% of the I-Media shares are owned by Universal, a firm founded by three relatives of Patarkatsishvili. Kay claimed that Patarkatsishvili had asked him shortly before his death "to take care of Imedi" and pledged to "restore the face it [Imedi] had before Badri Patarkatsishvili went into politics." He also rejected the allegations voiced by some Georgian opposition politicians that the authorities were in fact behind the deal.
The ownership dispute was settled following an agreement between the Patarkatsishvili family and the government of Georgia in July 2011. The Patarkatsishvili family renounced all claims to the ownership of Imedi TV.
Imedi TV has since been criticized for being pro-governmental. The station manager Giorgi Arveladze is the country's former economics minister and a longtime friend of President Mikhail Saakashvili.
- CNN, Georgia: State of emergency called, 7.11.2007
- Imedi TV License Suspended for Three Months. Civil Georgia. Civil Georgia, Tbilisi/2007-11-17.
- Court Lifts Ban on Imedi. Civil Georgia. 2007-12-06.
- ‘Imedi Studio Equipment Badly Damaged’. Civil Georgia. 2007-12-07.
- Imedi Resumes Broadcasts . Civil Georgia, 2007-12-12.
- Imedi TV Suspends Broadcasts. Civil Georgia, Tbilisi. 2007-12-26.
- Kyiv Post: Georgian TV producer asks for political asylum in Russia
- Links to YouTube recordings of Imedia fake reportage, by a Georgian blogger (in Georgian and Russian)
- CNN. Fake Russian invasion broadcast sparks Georgian panic
- Radio Free Europe. Fake Report Of Russian Invasion Sparks Anger In Georgia
- Georgia invaded, Saakashvili dead? False TV report causes panic with the public
- Imedi TV ‘New Owner’ Plans to Restore ‘Old Imedi’. Civil Georgia. 2008-03-23.
- Patarkatsishvili Family, Gov't Say 'Dispute Settled'. Civil Georgia. 2011-07-06.
- Georgia Mounts American PR Campaign, Der Spiegel 17 March 2010