On June 1 Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, called upon the Armenian authorities to bring the amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” in line with international standards. As it has been reported, the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” was adopted on May 20 in first hearing. The document was elaborated by the RA Ministry of Economy and was justified by the need of switching from analog to digital broadcasting. 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 broadcast sphere regulation. The draft was also criticized during the discussions at RA Human Rights Defender’s Office on May 24 and at parliamentary hearings of May 26 (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 21-27, 2010, and May 14-20, 2010).
“If adopted in its present form, the law would not guarantee pluralism in the broadcasting sector. The draft also fails to offer a solid basis for the upcoming process of digitalization. A good draft can safeguard independence of the broadcasters, thus promoting media freedom and at the same time stimulate a competitive and economically vibrant broadcasting sector in Armenia,” Dunja Mijatovic emphasized.
An analysis of the draft “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” was made by Andrei Richter, Professor at Moscow State University, on behalf of Office of OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media.
According to the review, shortcomings in the draft include:
“- a failure to oblige the National Commission for TV and Radio (NCTR) to explain any rejections of applications for broadcasting licenses;
– an indefinite delay to set up private digital channels while terminating analogue broadcasting by 20 July 2013. This can violate competition rules;
– it does not oblige the NCTR to make its frequency plans public at least once a year. This can make the procedure of licensing and tenders, the exact capacity and number of frequencies subject to different interpretations;
– a lack of clear rules for satellite, mobile telephone and online broadcasting, and an attempt to place all forms of broadcasting under a strict regime of licensing or permission by the NCTR;
– it does not follow international standards in the selection and appointment of members of the Council for Public Television and Radio;
– a limit to the number of broadcast channels without any explanation.” (Find the full version of the expert analysis of the draft on www.osce.org/fom).
On June 2 the amendments to the Broadcast Law were considered at the Public Council at the RA President. At the discussion the statement of Yerevan Press Club, Internews, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri and Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia was distributed. The statement summarizes the recommendations and comments of NGOs, voiced during parliamentary hearings on the draft.
On June 3 the draft was considered at RA Ministry of Economy. As the Minister of Economy Nerses Yeritsian noted, some of the recommendations have been accepted. However, the final conclusion will be made after a study of the version of the draft, which will be submitted to RA National Assembly for second hearing.