The Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) plans to conduct exit polls on the election day together with three private TV companies – Imedi, GDS and Maestro. The decision was made by the GPB Board of trustees on September 7.
We call on the GPB Board of trustees and the management to reconsider their decision and to refrain from implementing projects that cast doubt on the broadcaster’s impartiality.
We believe that the GPB Board and management should exercise greater responsibility when making similar decisions. Their claim that only the polling company and not the GPB will be responsible for exit poll results is unacceptable. We believe that individual representatives of GPB Board and management fail to understand the risks associated with conducting exit polls through the proposed plan. Specifically:
According to media monitoring results of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, the GPB’s coverage of the pre-election period has been largely balanced and unbiased, which is a significant achievement. Considering the political sensitivity of the issue, the decision to conduct exit polls together with private TV companies is likely to negatively affect the public’s perception of the GPB as an independent and impartial media organization.
Exit polls are typically used by political parties for political manipulation during the election day. Since the GPB has been trying to cast off the status of a "government television" and regain public trust for years, the argumentation provided for such a risky decision is vague at best.
Previously, the GPB has handled exit polls poorly. In 2012, there was almost 20% difference between the GPB exit poll results and actual election results. It is unclear what preventive mechanisms other than trust in the polling company TNS the GPB has, in order to avoid the same outcome. The field work for the exit polls will be conducted by a company Gorbi, which, according to its own representative Merab Pachulia, has not conducted any exit polls in Georgia since 2003.
Compared to the 3 private TV companies, the GPB’s financial contribution is relatively small. Conducting the exit poll costs USD 935 thousand, of which the GPB will cover GEL 200 thousand. The rest will be covered by the private TV companies. In a highly competitive market, it is unclear what interest do commercial TV companies have to share important data with their competitors for such a small amount of money.
According to the GPB director, the management has been negotiating with private TV companies since December, of which the Board had not been informed until recently. The GPB management must inform the Board of issues of similar importance in a timely manner, so that the broadcaster has ample time to thoroughly consider its options. The above case raises questions about the extent to which the decision-making process of the GPB is public.
Exit polls for the GPB and 3 private TV companies will be managed by an international company TNS. The GPB will spend GEL 200 thousand for this service, which was included in its budget plan for the election year. The field work for the exit polls throughout the country will be conducted by a research company Gorbi.
The GPB Board decision to conduct an exit poll together with Imedi, Maestro and GDS was not unanimous. Two members of the Board, Sulkhan Saladze and Ketevan Mskhiladze did not support the decision. In their view, conducting an exit poll together with the above TV companies would damage the GPB’s image. The Public Defender representative in the GPB Board Irina Putkaradze refrained from voting on the issue. The decision was supported by the Board Chairperson Grigol Gogelia, Marina Muskhelishvili, Giorgi Kokhreidze and Irakli Papava.
Transparency International Georgia
Media Development Foundation (MDF)
Georgia’s Reforms Associatess (GRASS)
Journalism Research and Advocacy Center
Black and Baltic Sea Alliance Georgia
Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI)
Civil Development Agency (CiDA)