Georgia launched a Russian-language TV channel today focusing on news coverage of events in the Caucasus region, including unruly south Russia where Moscow faces a growing threat from Islamist insurgents. The channel, whose first programme was a marathon question-and-answer session between President Mikheil Saakashvili and the Georgian public, is not a vehicle for state-controlled information, its director said.
“There is no way that we are going to let this channel be a propaganda channel,” Robert Parsons, the channel’s director and a former BBC correspondent, told Reuters. But he said Moscow is unlikely to look kindly on a Georgian-run channel broadcasting to its southern republics, including Chechnya where it has fought two wars against separatists in the past 16 years.
“In Russia, there is no doubt that there will be a certain amount of hostility towards us,” Mr Parsons said. “Our target is essentially to fill the information vacuum … And of course, if you try to fill the information vacuum in countries where the media is controlled by the state, the state is not going to like it.”
The new channel, called First Caucasus News, was briefly on air a year ago before Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat cut transmission, saying a long-term contract had not been signed. Georgia accused Russia of masterminding the move, but Moscow denied the charge and Eutelsat denied being pressured by Russia. The broadcaster sued Eutelsat in the French courts but lost the case and switched to another satellite - Hot Bird E13.
Andy Sennitt adds: According to a press release, the station will operate six hours a day at 1500-2100 UTC and is available online at www.pik.tv.