Еженедельный Бюллетень ЕПК

2004


PRESS DISCUSSES REMOVAL OF THE RADIO LIBERTY PROGRAM FROM TV AIR

The removal of “Azatutiun” (“Liberty”) program, produced by Radio Liberty Armenian Service, from the air of “Kentron” TV company, caused much debate in the press. On October 13 the management of "Kentron" announced the suspension of broadcasting the subsequent program issues (the first one was aired on October 10). On October 19 the President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Thomas Dine addressed a letter to the President of Armenia Robert Kocharian, in which he urged the head of the state “to denounce this contemptible Soviet-style act, and to help return “Azatutiun” on air” (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 15-21, 2004).

On October 22 “Hayots Ashkhar” newspaper published the response of the Spokesman of the RA President Ashot Kocharian to Thomas Dine under the heading of “Ultimatums are Unacceptable”. In the letter to the head of Radio Liberty amazement is expressed at the fact of addressing the President per se, since “Kentron” is a privately-owned TV company and the decision about the discontinuation of “Azatutiun” program “was made by its owner and management without any official pressure”. Noting that the RA Law “On Mass Communication” excludes any possibility of state interference with the professional activities of media, Ashot Kocharian reminded that “the authorities have always contributed to overcoming all the existing problems related to Radio Liberty broadcasting on the air of the Public Radio of Armenia”. “We find the letter written as an ultimatum unacceptable. You, unfortunately, still operate with “Cold War” categories of the East-West confrontation times”, the address of the President’s Spokesman ends up saying.

A day before, in an interview to “Aravot” daily of October 21, the Director of “Kentron” Petros Ghazarian announced that the decision about discontinuing the broadcasts of “Azatutiun” was made by the owner of the TV company and himself: “For me this is primarily a commercial problem. I have agreements and I cannot disclose all the details, because if I violate the commercial agreement with any one (in this case this refers to the representative of Radio Liberty), I will lose the confidence of others."

On October 21 “Hayots Ashkhar” daily published an article titled “Why the Head of Radio Liberty Raised Noise”, telling about another program of Radio Liberty Armenian Service “Nothing but the Truth”, shown on September 28, 2004 on the air of another Yerevan TV company, “Shant”. In the article the head of “Shant” TV Artur Yezekian says, in particular, that he and the Director of Radio Liberty Armenian Service Hrair Tamrazian engaged in negotiations on various joint projects, also on the creation of a weekly newscast. However, according to Artur Yezekian, the TV company was unable to accept this proposal for a number of reasons (including the technical and financial ones). As to the only issue “Nothing but the Truth” program, its preparation, as the head of “Shant” said, was placed “actually on the TV company and only the host and the producer were from Radio Liberty”. “Aravot” newspaper, in its piece of October 22, stated that “Shant” TV company was paid $ 5,000 for the production of “Nothing but the Truth”. “This amount is almost twice more than the one TV companies are paid for such programs", “Aravot” writes. On October 23 the same “Aravot” informed about the proposal of the head of ”A1+” TV company Mesrop Movsesian to use the technical facilities and other resources of “A1+” “that has been deemed to idleness” – to solve the problems that other channels encounter when producing the programs of Radio Liberty. “If this is only an issue of production, “A1+” is willing to make TV programs for Radio Liberty, even free of charge”, Mesrop Movsesian said.

The press also voiced a version that the Chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company Alexan Harutiunian may have something to do with the failures of Radio Liberty TV programs. He is said to be obstructing the airing of the TV programs on other channels so as to get this project for the Public Television of Armenia. In an interview to “Golos Armenii” newspaper of October 23 Alexan Harutiunian rejected this supposition, saying that he had nothing to do with the presence or absence of Radio Liberty from other channels. He also confirmed that PTA and Radio Liberty discussed the possibility of going on the air of Public TV. “Thus, for me such talks were very unexpected and insulting. Particularly, when this was related to my alleged demands of money for the airtime provision. This simply could not happen. Radio Liberty has no budget for TV programs for myself or someone else to await money from that. Moreover, the radio station itself expected assistance from us. It expected us to help it go on air”, the Chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company said. The question of the newspaper as to whether there was a probability that Radio Liberty would have a program on PTA, Alexan Harutiunian answered that any program “is born when all the necessary conditions are in place, from human resources to technical facilities”.