On May 24 the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’”, adopted on May 20 in first hearing of RA National Assembly, was discussed at the RA Human Rights Defender’s Office. As it has been reported, the amendments to the Broadcast Law were elaborated by the RA Ministry of Economy and were justified by the need of switching from analog to digital broadcasting. The document was criticized, specifically by journalistic associations. The statement of Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media Support NGO and Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, released on May 17, particularly, expressed a concern as to the haste with which the draft was developed, and noted that it does not solve the key issues of the Armenian TV market (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 14-20, 2010).
The discussions of May 24 were attended by Nerses Yeritsian, RA Minister of Economy, Grigor Amalian, Chairman of National Commission on Television and Radio, representatives of media, diplomatic missions, accredited in Armenia, international, non-governmental, as well as journalistic organizations. An opinion was expressed, noting that neither the amendments to the Broadcast Law, nor the governmental Concept Paper on Digitalization of Television Broadcasting give answers to several issues regarding the reforms of broadcast industry.
On May 26 parliamentary hearings on the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” took place. The hearings were organized by the RA NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. In his opening address Hovik Abrahamian, Chairman of National Assembly, emphasized the same shortcomings of the draft, listed in the abovementioned statement of professional organizations. He also talked in favor of a serious revision of the document, before it is adopted in second hearing. The parliamentary discussions’ participants – initiators of the draft, NA deputies, journalists, experts – stated their points of view regarding the further improvement of the document and the broadcast sphere in whole. Yerevan Press Club, Internews, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression and Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia presented a number of issues which should necessarily be reflected in the official documents before the draft law is adopted.
YPC President Boris Navasardian suggested an action plan which would allow holding the upcoming licensing competitions of July 20 in lucidity and predictability of the reforms of broadcast sphere. First of all, a revised Concept Paper on Digitalization of Television Broadcasting has to be presented, responding to all key issues dealing with the process. Secondly, a laconic and clear draft law should be adopted, which will follow from the Concept Paper and become a legal basis for the upcoming broadcast licensing competitions. At the same time, a simplified procedure has to be proposed for obtaining a right to satellite broadcasting. This could be profited by TV companies deprived of frequencies as a result of the competitions. Thirdly, the parliament should assume a political commitment to develop within a half year a new broadcast legislation, reflecting all the key issues of reforming this sphere, including the guarantee of independence of the regulatory bodies. Artak Davtian, Head of NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, presiding at the hearings, promised that the recommendations would be thoroughly examined.
It is supposed that the discussions on the draft will continue at the Public Council at the RA President on June 2, and at the Ministry of Economy on June 3.