YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


AMENDMENTS TO RA LAW “ON TELEVISION AND RADIO” ADOPTED, DEALING WITH MEDIA ACTIVITIES AT ELECTION TIMES

On November 16 at the extraordinary session of the RA National Assembly a package
of draft laws was adopted that includes amendments to the RA Electoral Code
and RA Law “On Television and Radio”. On the same day the draft law package
was signed by the President of Armenia and on November 19 it was published in
the RA Official Bulletin, in other words, it came into force.

The amendments and additions introduced brought some provisions of the broadcast
law into compliance with the Electoral Code. In particular Article 11 of the
RA Law “On Television and Radio” was supplemented by the clause of the Electoral
Code that referred to the activities of TV and radio companies during the period
of elections and referenda and was given a new edition. According to the revised
article, during the period of pre-election promotion defined by the law the
TV and radio programs are aired in accordance with the election legislation.
The public and private broadcasters are committed to ensuring equal access to
air to all candidates, to publish the price of airtime and “other essential
terms of broadcasting agreement” for paid programs. In the newscasts that report
on election campaigns of the candidates equal and fair terms must be observed,
the coverage should be impartial and free of comment. In the new edition Article
11 establishes that the broadcasting of pre-election promotional TV programs,
provided by the candidates through their pre-election funds, should have a mandatory,
uninterrupted screen marking, “pre-election promotion”, and in case of the radio
air at least three reminders of these must be made during the program. Besides,
on the voting day and the day before the broadcasting of news, editorial, documentary
or authored programs of promotional nature as well as any form of promotion
is prohibited.

The clause added to Article 37 of the law, in accordance with the authority
of the National Commission on Television and Radio stipulated by the Electoral
Code, gives this regulatory body a function of controlling the compliance with
established procedure for pre-election promotion and entitles it to start litigation,
should violations be observed. A change in terminology should also be noted:
the concept of “political advertising”, used previously in the law, is now replaced
by “pre-election promotion”.

Amendments were introduced also into some provisions of the Electoral Code, referring to media activities during election campaigns. Thus, from now on the RA CEC, on the day after the candidate registration deadline expires, must define the procedure and the schedule for the provision by public TV and radio of not only free, but also paid airtime for pre-election promotion of presidency candidates/parties running for seats at the RA National Assembly. Since the principle of self-nomination of presidency candidate was introduced into electoral legislation, now it is only the candidate that can use the paid public airtime for promotion, and not the parties/initiative groups that had nominated him, as it used to be. The Electoral Code also stipulates that when publicizing the findings of public opinion polls about the ratings of candidates and parties/blocs, the organizations that have administered the polls must specify the name of the organization that administered the survey, the timeframes, the sample size and sampling method, the data collection method and place, the exact question, the estimated error margin, the client and the funding source of the poll. In the previous edition, the Electoral Code imposed a similar obligation also on media and citizens. It is still prohibited to publish findings of public opinion polls one week before the voting day.

Other provisions of the RA Electoral Code, regulating the activities of public and private media during elections, remain unchanged. In particular, the tariff for pre-election promotional materials, announced by the broadcasters, is not subject to change throughout the whole election campaign. The TV and radio programs, dealing with pre-election promotion, are not to be interrupted by commercial advertising.

As to print media, the Electoral Code commits all newspapers and magazines,
regardless of their founders, to ensure equal opportunities (space, tariffs,
etc.) for all candidates, parties/blocs in the publishing of pre-election promotional
materials. Exception is made only for party organs.