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Georgia wages TV war

New channel will give its side of struggle with Russia

A channel in Georgia that was set up to raise awareness about the country’s struggle with Russia has tapped the widow of a Chechen leader to present one of its shows.

The First Caucasian Channel — which has been running a pilot version on the Internet for a month — went live on a Georgian public TV frequency on Jan. 4.

Alla Dudayeva will host a culture program on the channel. Her husband Dzhokhar Dudayev, the first leader of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, was killed by a Russian guided missile explosion in 1996.

The channel, which has an annual budget of around $1.7 million, is run by state-controlled Georgian Public Broadcasting.

Levan Gakheladze, chairman of the board of trustees of GPB, said the channel would help counter the views of Russian TV channels, which are widely available in Georgia.

Created in 2005, GPB controls the territory’s Georgian Public TV channel, founded in 1956, and Second Channel, set up in 1971, as well as two radio stations.

The First Caucasian Channel, which broadcasts in Russian, will be made available to cable and terrestrial networks as part of a Georgian government drive to get its side of the story across in its troubled relations with Russia. Viewers in southern Russia may also be able to pick up the signal.

The two countries fought a brief and bitter war in August 2008 over the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two territories subsequently declared independence with Russian backing, although few other foreign governments have recognized them.

Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said Jan. 4 that the new channel, which will report mostly on events in Georgia, Russia and the Caucasus, was important for Georgians who “should not lose” access to Russian-language broadcasts.

Gakheladze added, “This is a desire to export truth about Georgia. We want to report our truth to our target audience, which is very much interested in it.

We want to tell the truth about what is happening not only in North Caucasus, but also in Moscow.”

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