Georgia has offered Imedi TV to News Corp - PM
Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Georgia’s prime minister said today he wanted Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to buy the banned independent television station Imedi outright. News Corp co-owns the channel with Georgian multimillionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, an opposition figure who wants to end President Mikhail Saakashvili’s rule. The president’s allies say Imedi was a mouthpiece for his opponents during anti-government protests this month.

“We have heard over the last 18 months that News Corp is a co-owner and a partner in Imedi,” Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said. “But this is not confirmed by registry entries and other data.”

“We have stated our desire not to see News Corp in an unclear role in Imedi,” he said. “On the contrary, we want News Corp to own a 100-percent share or a controlling stake.” News Corp has declined to disclose its holding in Imedi. Patarkatsishvili has said he sold his 49-percent stake to News Corp in 2006.

Gurgenidze said he told a government meeting he had expressed his doubts about the ownership structure of Imedi at a meeting with News Corp Executive Vice-President Martin Pompadur, who visited Georgia this week. Gurgenidze said Pompadur rejected the buy-out proposal, but did not say why. But the secretary of Saakashvili’s Security Council, Kakha Lomaya, later said Georgia still expected a final answer from the company. ”They said they need some time and that is why we still expect their answer later this week,” he told a news briefing.

Security services raided Imedi after police broke up the biggest opposition rally since the pro-Western Saakashvili came to power in 2005. News Corp described the raid as “totally outrageous”. It says its news coverage is balanced.

“We told (News Corp) that three conditions are to be met,” Lomaya said. “Those are financial transparency, clarity about who owns the station and adherence to professional ethics.” “If these conditions are met, Imedi can resume broadcasting as early as today,” he added.

(Source: Reuters)