09TBILISI1382, GEORGIA: HEAD OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING RESIGNS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1382 2009-07-30 15:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0360
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1382 2111505
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301505Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1971
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 001382 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: HEAD OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING RESIGNS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  Levan Kubaneishvili's July 20 resignation 
 
 
from his position as Georgia's public broadcasting (GPB) 
general director appears to be a tacit recognition of the 
continuing political battles that have swirled around the 
station for months.  He has not publicly explained his 
resignation, but the move has sparked speculation by many 
that Kubaneishvili's departure was as an attempt by the GOG 
to appease the opposition who have been very critical of him 
and have demanded his replacement.  An application period is 
now open to all candidates to fill the vacancy.  The public 
broadcasting board will make the final decision on the new 
director general on August 10.  The board of trustees itself 
has been hampered by the resignations of four of its nine 
members in response to what they described as GPB's biased 
coverage of the non-parliamentary opposition-led protests 
this past spring.  As part of his proposal for further 
democratic reforms, President Saakashvili suggested that the 
makeup of the board of trustees be equal parts opposition 
candidates and GoG candidates, with the last seat being a 
member of civil society.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  Kubaneishvili, who expressed his 
frustration at being a political target in a previous meeting 
with the Ambassador a few months ago, may have simply grown 
tired of dealing with the politics surrounding the position. 
The position has become a lightning rod for opposition 
criticism making it likely the next general director will 
also face tremendous political pressure from all sides. 
Saakashvili's proposal appears to recognize the need to 
de-politicize the GPB which may be a tall order in the 
current political environment.  End Comment. 
 
WHY QUIT NOW? 
 
3.  (C)  Levan Kubaneishvili resigned after only serving 15 
months of his six-year term.  This resignation comes on the 
heels of previous resignations by four members of the public 
broadcasting board of trustees, who resigned because of what 
they said was insufficient quality coverage of opposition 
protests by GPB.  Deputy General Director Gia Chanturia will 
be the new acting Director General until a replacement is 
appointed.  Kubaneishvili has remained silent on his reasons 
for resigning, leading to speculation that his resignation 
was at least in part GOG influenced.  Kubaneishvili is 
reputed to be very close to the Saakashvili administration 
and is highly unpopular with the non-parliamentary opposition 
leaders who have consistently demanded his removal.  The move 
to replace him could be perceived as a goodwill gesture by 
GOG to placate their concerns about GPB's coverage, although 
critics seem to be reserving judgment about whether this was 
a significant move until a replacement is named. 
 
WHO WANTS THIS JOB? 
 
4.  (C)  Public Broadcasting's board of trustees initiated an 
open application period to fill the vacancy.  Anyone may 
submit an application for the position until August 3 and the 
current board members will elect the new director on August 
10.  Despite the fact there are only five members currently 
on the board, the members represent a quorum able to make a 
final determination on appointing a new general director. 
The composition of the original nine-member board was the 
result of an informal understanding between the GOG and the 
opposition reached in February 2008.  The current makeup of 
the board may cause independent journalists to pass up the 
opportunity to apply for the position since the remaining 
members are viewed as openly pro-government.  Never one to 
Qmembers are viewed as openly pro-government.  Never one to 
shy aware from political confrontation, Erosi Kitsmarishvili 
- former Georgian Ambassador to Moscow - announced his 
intention to run for the position.  Kitsmarishvili, a former 
Saakashvili ally and former owner of Rustavi 2 television 
channel is the only announced candidate at this time. 
 
5.  (C)    In his July 20 speech to Parliament, Saakashvili 
offered a proposal to grant four seats on the board to the 
opposition keeping four seats for GOG nominees.  Saakashvili 
proposed that the last seat be reserved for a member of civil 
society with the goal of de-politicizing public broadcasting. 
 Parliament tabled a pending draft amendment to increase the 
number of trustees from nine to fifteen which was aimed at 
proving a more "inclusive" board, and the expanded board idea 
could be acted upon at any time. 
TEFFT

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