Communications Commission calls on Broadcasters to refrain from airing obscene Content to avoid violating the Legislation and Human Rights
The Communications Commission is calling on broadcasters to refrain from airing programmes that abuse a person’s dignity and their fundamental rights, or contain obscenity. Qualitative media monitoring carried out by the Commission for the pre-election period of the 2020 Georgian parliamentary elections, covering the activities of 6 national broadcasters between 1 September and 31 October 2020, found that within the pluralistic and diverse pre-election media environment, some sections of the media were biased and polarised, while others were saturated with hate speech and obscenities. The most significant problem identified by the pre-election monitoring are the programmes containing obscenities that abuse a person’s fundamental rights.
Media monitoring results showed that presenters and journalists of Mtavari Arkhi frequently made obscene remarks on air. Specifically, presenter and founder of Mtavari Arkhi Nika Gvaramia used obscene language and hate speech on his programme “Main Accents” on 20 September. Several instances of the use of coarse language were recorded on the same programme on 27 September. The use of obscenities on the channel continued into the month of October. On 25 October, “Post Factum” presenter Giorgi Gabunia showed a doll that had its pants pulled down and proceeded to use obscene remarks and hate speech.
Statements containing hate speech were also aired by TV Pirveli throughout the reporting period. In October, hate speech could also be heard on Imedi TV. Although in the latter case the hate speech was used by interviewees/guests, presenters failed to challenge or distance themselves from such remarks.
To uphold the legislation and the rights of our citizens, the Communications Commission calls on all broadcasters to refrain from airing programmes that contain obscenity. Otherwise, the Commission will act within the scope of the authority afforded to it by the legislation to protect the public from the damage caused by programmes that abuse a person’s dignity and fundamental rights.
The Law of Georgia on Broadcasting prohibits the broadcasting of programmes or advertisements abusing a citizen’s and a person’s dignity and their fundamental rights and that contain obscenity. Until 2009, it was only possible to respond to the violation of the aforementioned requirement through the self-regulatory mechanism, and the case could not be contested in front of the Commission or in court. This legislative restriction has since been annulled by the Constitutional Court of Georgia.
The verdict of the Constitutional Court states that freedom of expression can be restricted if it crosses the line between freedom of expression and violation of other human rights. The legislation must therefore ensure that the rights violated by the broadcaster are restored and the damage sustained by the viewers can be compensated.” Not only did the Constitutional Court find that it is constitutional to respond legally to the placement of programmes containing obscenity, but also set a standard by determining that it must be legally possible to compensate viewers for the sustained damage. In view of the fact that each decision taken by the Commission undergoes effective control within the court system, the standard determined by the Constitutional Court applies equally to the hearing of the case in court and in front of the Commission. Therefore, as the authority that determines media policy in the country, the Communications Commission is not only authorised, but also obliged to respond to the placement of programmes or advertisements that contain obscenity and abuse a person’s dignity and fundamental rights.
To ensure that broadcasters are clear about what constitutes obscenity under law, the Commission deems it important to clarify the criteria outlined in the legislation. The Law of Georgia on Broadcasting describes obscenity as an action which is in conflict with ethical norms established in society and which has no social and political, cultural, educational or scientific value. It is also prohibited to broadcast programmes or advertisements abusing a citizen’s and a person’s dignity and his/her fundamental rights and that contain obscenity. Consequently, the legitimacy of the broadcasted programmes must be assessed based on the following criteria: whether the programme/advert contains actions that contravene the established ethical norms; whether the programme/advert has a social and political, cultural, educational or scientific value; whether the placement of the programme/advert abuses a person’s dignity and fundamental rights.
In each specific case, the aforementioned criteria will be employed to determine whether the content of a programme contains obscenity, and whether it is prohibited to broadcast the content. To this end, the following factors will be taken into consideration: the time slot and context in which the programme is placed, the level of damage caused or potentially caused by the placement of the programme, the size, composition and expectations of the potential audience, and the effect of the programme on the audience.