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‘First Caucasus’ Satellite Broadcast Suspended

Submitted by on Monday, 1 February 2010.    1,198 views No Comment
‘First Caucasus’ Satellite Broadcast Suspended

A newly-launched Russian language Georgian TV channel “First Caucasus” said Sunday that it had been taken off air by its France-based satellite operator because of what it alleged was pressure from the Russian government.

The First Caucasus Channel was launched early this month, initially on internet and it became available on satellite since January 15.

For less than two weeks the channel was hosted on Eutelsat’s new W7 satellite operating at the 36 degrees East – a key location for broadcasting in Russia and other CIS states, as well as in Europe and Africa. The Georgian Public Broadcaster’ s First Channel, as well as many of Russian TV channels, is also available on the same location.

Eutelsat took the First Caucasus Channel off the satellite, citing the end of testing period, without yet signing a new contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

It said Eutelsat had stopped transmitting First Caucasus after signing “a lucrative contract” with Russian satellite company Intersputnik to provide broadcasts for a unit of state-controlled Russian giant Gazprom. Once it had signed the Russian contract, Eutelsat requested “urgent” talks on the content of First Caucasus and called Georgia’s public broadcasting service to “ask them to shut down” on January 23, the channel alleged.

It claimed Eutelsat had acted in violation of French and European laws.

Head of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Gia Chanturia, is in Paris trying to convince Europe’s leading satellite operator, Eutelsat, to continue hosting Georgia’s Russian-language First Caucasus Tv Channel.

Le Figaro newspaper ran an article on the matter on January 27, suggesting that Russia could be behind Eutelsat’s decision to take the First Caucasus off its satellite without prolonging a contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster. The newspaper quoted unnamed Tbilisi-based diplomat saying that Eutelsat “is under strong pressure” from Russia not to strike the contract with the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

Russian officials have publicly condemned the First Caucasus Channel as Georgia’s “anti-Russian propaganda” and an attempt “to plant ideology of extremism” in North Caucasus.

Gia Chanturia, general director of the Georgian Public Broadcaster, told RFE/RL’s Russian-language on January 29, that “situation is strange.” He said that after the testing period, the contract was due to go into force from January 31. “But suddenly problems have emerged and we are now trying to settle them,” Chanturia said.

He also said that the operator company initially complained about the content of the channel, but latter cited technical problems behind the suspension of the First Caucasus Tv’s satellite broadcasting.

The channel is going on its broadcasting via its website.

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