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Georgians go to Georgia.


The telephone system works sometimes. The newspapers contain a lot of information ... pages and pages of grey copy that give little attention to readership format, design or content. The major television and radio stations are technologically up-to-date ... by 1950s' standards.

This is the state of communication channels in the Republic of Georgia, a tiny nation nestled between the Caspian and Black Seas in the southern part of the Soviet Union- a nation struggling to gain independence from the USSR-an independence that could also help them make tremendous strides in updating their communication technology. Yet with all of the obvious drawbacks, news dissemination and communication networks in the country are incredibly successful. How is this possible in contrast to the high, tech global communication network familiar (and seemingly essential) to most of us?

Spreading information in Georgia is a task the locals have transformed into an art. In our culture, experts tell us that the average business person has a sphere of contacts that includes 260 persons-acquaintances made though our employment, family, church, civic and professional activities. By Georgian standards, most of our networking efforts are "small time." In a culture with controlled media, Georgians have learned to depend on information gathered through a far-reaching personal network.

Georgians are extravagant with their time. Because Georgians depend on their networks for so much of the information needed to survive, they spend a great deal of time and effort on personal relationships. For the typical Georgian, extra time at work does not translate into money-therefore, there is no incentive to cut short valuable personal time spent on lingering dinners or long family discussions.

With seven decades of controlled news, the people have learned how to ferret out the information that's really important or crucial to them-if you really want the lowdown, just ask a friend or neighbor! Everything else in the media has been viewed with complacency.

After 70 years of strict control over the media by the Soviet government, the powers that be, in the reluctant spirit of glasnost, are beginning to put more control of the media in the hands of the people. And the Georgians, cautiously, have begun to produce the news in a more accurate manner. The major drawbacks are the lack of technology and the task of turning a somewhat complacent and distrustful audience into an informed constituency.

How Georgians Communicate

Four formal classes of communication exist in Georgia: newspapers, radio, television and telephone. "I don't think we are creating anything new in terms of communication channels," says Nugzar Ruhadze, a Georgia TV journalist on loan to an Atlanta, Ga. television station. "We are just trying to make the existing channels work better. In the US the information transfer and message systems are fantastic. The task before us is to integrate the American message culture into our Georgian culture."

This will not be an easy task. In the US, there is an unwritten obligation to relate information to our audiences. Lacking this obligation in the Georgia culture, the media concentrates on what its producers feel the people need to know-nothing more, nothing less. And as the Georgian communicators struggle to determine the degrees of information that should be disseminated, they straddle a fine line with Moscow officials, trying to ruffle as few political feathers as possible.

"Our society is not in need of as much information as the US society," notes Ruhadze. "Here you use so much of the media to sell products. In Georgia we do not have to try to sell products. Things are scarce enough, the people make an effort to seek goods and buy them without hesitation."

With the recent political upheaval and determined move toward democracy in the Republic of Georgia, more information is being shared through communication channels. Today the Georgian TV station, Moambe, is producing documentaries on food and cigarette shortages-projects unthought of a year ago. "We are taking our cameras to the streets asking people their thoughts on crucial topics," says Gocha Khuundadze, deputy chief of Moambe. And in the recent political multi-party elections (the first ever in Georgia's history) candidates were allowed to give their views in a series of TV broadcasts. None of the candidates were allowed to publicly criticize their opponents but were encouraged to promote the advantages of their respective parties. The people were given the option of deciding who could best represent them." The message the Georgian public sent back was clear-the overwhelming majority of elected candidates were anti-communist.

The overall consensus in Georgia, as well as many other Soviet republics, is that the times are certainly changing. Communicators there are struggling to bring their audiences into a decided communication mode. They face enormous obstacles-little time, few resources, and decades of distrust-and yet they will continue to strive for the same goal as communicators here in Georgia, USA ... the free and open exchange of information for all persons, everywhere.

Christine Freitag is a member of IABC/ Louisville, Ky. and is a photojournalist specializing in corporate and commercial photography.

Bob Kelley, ABC, spent nearly 15 years in corporate communication before starting his own Atlanta, Ga. free-lance business, In Touch Communications, last summer.

Suzanne Stemme is a former member of the Louisville chapter and a current member of the Atlanta chapter.
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related article; communications in the Republic of Georgia
Author:Stemme, Suzanne
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Laid off after 21 years ... but still surviving ... very well, thank you.
Next Article:International spotlight.

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