YPC Weekly Newsletter

2009


IS IT A CONTENT SUBJECT TO LICENSING?

Since November 2009 one of the three mobile operators of Armenia, “VivaСell-МТS”,
provides the service of mobile TV. At present, the consumers are offered the
programs of 15 Armenian TV channels. Despite the preliminary negotiations held
between “VivaСell-МТS” and “A1+” TV company, the latter did not appear
in the “package”, as it does not have a broadcast license (the air of “A1+”
was banned in April 2002 as a result of refusal of a broadcast license by the
National Commission on Television and Radio). This issue is not subject to legal
regulation, as the law prescribes licensing only of the broadcaster itself.

Meanwhile, Article 25 of the RA Law “On Television and Radio” stipulates the
terms for satellite broadcasting. Particularly, it is set forth that the Public
Television and Radio Company of Armenia has the priority to use the satellite
communication leased by the Republic of Armenia. The PTRC can allocate unused
air to private TV companies under a relevant contract. According to the basic
concepts of the Law, an entity is a TV company only if it holds a broadcast
license. This approach for some reason is applied by analogy on cable, mobile
and other types of communication. Thus, a company that does not have a license
is deprived of the right to diffuse its product – information – even if it does
not use the public resource, i.e., broadcast frequency. While, the holder of
the license (mobile operator, cable TV provider, etc.) is limited in the choice
of content dissemination by the production of licensed TV and radio companies.
In other words, the principle of indirect licensing for content production is
enacted, which contradicts Article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms.

The issue is of particular actuality in the framework of switching to digital
broadcasting and unification of channels, providing communication services.
These processes presuppose the separation of technical broadcast operators from
content producers. Accordingly, this demands a fundamental revision of the approaches
to licensing activities in the broadcast legislation. Nevertheless, the concept
on switching to digital broadcasting, elaborated by the RA Government, does
not give any explanation on this issue, which raises concerns whether the technological
progress will result in a more intense control over the content of disseminated
information.