The primary regulatory authority in Georgia is the Georgian National Communication Commission (GNCC). Created by the Law on Telecommunications and Post of 1999, the GNCC was established in 2000 as an independent government agency with an independent source of income from licensing and regulation fees. It is charged with regulating the telecommunications sector. The commission members are proposed by the president, in consultation with the prime minister, and elected by the Parliament of Georgia. Commission members (five in total) serve for six years.
The commission aims to prevent the establishment of monopolies in the broadcast sector and create an equal and fair competitive environment. It also facilitates the introduction of new technologies. The commission holds competitions and tenders to distribute licenses on the use of frequencies, and authorisations. It monitors activities of license holders and authorised entities to ensure their compliance with the laws and regulations in the broadcast sector.
The early years of the establishment of the broadcast regulatory framework in Georgia were marred with irregularities. The commission was accused of politicising the licensing process and barring new TV and radio stations from entering the market. It has repeatedly stripped unwanted TV stations, such as TV Maestro, of licenses on political grounds and imposed unfair fines. The Ad Hoc Parliamentary Commission on the Georgian National Communications Commission, set up in 2014, accused the commission of aligning with politicians and entering into corrupt business deals.
Against this challenging context, GNCC’s current leadership sets as its priorities to provide effective leadership of the regulatory framework and lead the harmonisation of Georgia’s regulatory framework with the EU’s Directive 2010/13/EU (Audiovisual Media Services Directive) in compliance with the Association Agreement between Georgia and the European Union, signed in 2014. The performance of the Georgian National Communications Commission has markedly improved in the past few years. The GNCC was praised for strong and “non-political” leadership in Georgia’s successful switchover to digital broadcasting and for dropping licensing requirements for TV stations. Inversely, TV stations criticised GNCC’s hasty introduction of per-hour advertisement limit – in line with the Audiovisual Services Directive – as damaging for their financial health and the advertising market in general. GNCC does not agree with the charges, claiming that new advertising limits have not affected the advertising market negatively, and that the large negative growth in the TV advertising market is a monetary effect produced by the exchange rate fluctuation, specifically, by the depreciation of the Georgian lari relative to the US dollar. GNCC has also been criticized for supporting GPB-initiated amendments to the Law on Broadcasting allowing the GPB to sell advertising and sponsorship.