YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


PUBLIC TV SUGGESTS RECONSIDERING RELATIONS WITH THE PARLIAMENT

Recently, media and deputies of RA National Assembly often raised the issue
of Public Television of Armenia coverage of the parliamentary programs. According
to the Rules of Procedure of RA National Assembly, adopted on February 20, 2002,
the sessions devoted to the statements of the deputies, and the questions-answers
addressed to the government are recorded and aired by Public Television of Armenia
(PTA First Channel – Ed.) on Wednesdays at 21.30.

The discussion was started by the interview of Chairman of the Council of Public
TV and Radio Company, Alexan Harutiunian to “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily (March
8, 2006), titled “First Channel Freedom of Expression Under Pressure”.
Herein, Alexan Harutiunian stated in particular that the Council of PTRC plans
to officially apply to Chairman of RA National Assembly, Arthur Baghdasarian
with the proposal to reconsider the relations between the TV company and the
Parliament. According to Alexan Harutiunian, as PTRC became a full member of
the European Broadcasting Union (in early July 2005 – Ed.), a controversy rose
between the charter of this organization and RA NA Rules of Procedure (which,
as mentioned above, obliges Public TV to broadcast sessions of the Parliament
on concrete day and time). Alexan Harutiunian noted that Director of the Legal
Department of the European Broadcasting Union, Werner Rumphorst sent a written
notification to the Council of PTRC that the charter of this professional association
of national broadcasters requires preservation of editorial independence by
the latter and the right to use TV air on their own discretion. While, Alexan
Harutiunian emphasized, the current legislation actually empowers the Parliament
to limit freedom of expression on the First Channel, thus violating democratic
norms.

According to the Head of the Council of PTRC, to remove the controversy it is
essential to primarily annul the legal provisions, obliging the Public Television
to broadcast parliamentary programs. Alexan Harutiunian stated in the interview
to “Haikakan Zhamanak” that afterwards there are several options of problem
settlement. For instance, giving a separate channel to the National Assembly,
or paid broadcast of parliamentary programs on some other channel, or their
broadcast on Public TV by mutual agreement – after NA appeal to the management
of the Council of PTRC. “I even agree to the option of a certain part of our
budget sums to be allotted to the Parliament for broadcasting programs on the
channel of its own choice”, Alexan Harutiunian noted.

At March 15 session of RA NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture
and Youth, which heard and considered the account on the work of the Council
of PTRC in 2005, Alexan Harutiunian again turned to the issue of covering the
Parliament activity and stated that he already sent the letter to the RA NA
Speaker Arthur Baghdasarian. (As told to YPC at the Council of PTRC, the letter
was also addressed to RA President Robert Kocharian).

NA deputies commented on the proposal of the Chairman of the Council of PTRC.
In particular, the article “Deputies Will Give Life, But Not TV Air”, published
in “Hayots Ashkhar” daily (March 11, 2006), quoted the opinions of several parliamentarians.
Thus, the Head of the parliamentary faction of the Republican Party of Armenia,
Galust Sahakian views the proposal of the Council of PTRC inexpedient, primarily
because it was made in undue time: “The faction has not yet discussed this
issue, but let us not forget that it is pre-election year. (…) I strongly
doubt that the parliamentary majority will give its agreement.” The Secretary
of the faction of “Dashnaktsutiun” Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Hrair
Karapetian was also negatively disposed: “We are for a transparent National
Assembly that is the people should know what the deputies are doing and what
issues are raised to the government by the factions of the political parties.
(…) As for the solution of this problem through an agreement with the Public
Television, this proposal is totally unclear. Public Television is financed
by the state budget, ratified by the National Assembly, and PTRC submits a report
on its activity to the Parliament.” The proposal of the Council of PTRC raised
concerns of the parliamentary opposition. Chairman of “National Unity” faction
Aghasi Arshakian said: “Parliamentary statements and questions-answers to the
government are the only real opportunity for the opposition to get access to
TV air. If such a proposal is introduced, it will mean an attempt at restricting
this opportunity too. Naturally, our faction cannot encourage such a proposal
and will vote against it.”

“168 Zham” newspaper (No. 30, March 21-23, 2006) voiced the opinion of one
of the leaders of “Dashnaktsutiun” party, deputy of RA NA Vahan Hovhannisian:
“I think it would be more appropriate to give full broadcast but not necessarily
on First Channel.”