On December 16 the National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) denied to grant a broadcast license to “A1+” TV company for the thirteenth time. As it has been reported, the competitions, announced by NCTR on July 20, 2010, are held in Armenia for the first time and are stipulated by the digital switchover from analogue broadcasting (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 22-28, 2010).
The founder of “A1+”, “Meltex” LLC, participated in competition No.11 (for TV channels in Yerevan of international/current affairs profile), where his opponent was the founder of "ArmNews" TV company, “ArmNews” CJSC. Namely this competition attracted the outmost attention of the public. Deprived of license in 2002, “A1+” had further taken part in 12 broadcast licensing competitions, but every time its bids were scored by the NCTR lower than those of its rivals. The NCTR decisions of refusing a license to the TV company were considered by the local and international community to be politically motivated. The attempts of “A1+” founder to challenge the decisions of the NCTR remained just as futile. Having gone through all levels of domestic courts, the founder of “A1+” addressed the European Court of Human Rights. On June 17, 2008 the ECHR recognized the refusals to grant a broadcast license to “Meltex” LLC to be a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas. The ECHR judgment quoted the PACE Resolution on Armenia of January 27, 2004, which concluded that the vagueness of the broadcast law in force had resulted in NCTR being given outright discretionary powers (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 13-19, 2008). Calls to the Armenian authorities to ensure an open, fair and transparent licensing procedure, in order “A1+” to resume its broadcast, have been persistently voiced out within 8 years in the documents of honorable international and foreign structures, including in many PACE resolutions.
On December 15, on the eve of announcing the competition results, the Board of Trustees of “People’s TV” Foundation (created in mid-October to support “A1+” TV company) released a statement telling about the violation of transparency by the National Commission on Television and Radio. The statement was conditioned by the reply of NCTR to the request of “A1+” founder, who demanded to provide the copies of the competition applications of “Armenia TV” CJSC and “ArmNews” LLC. In its reply, December 6, NCTR noted that the copies can be provided only after January 20, 2011. With this regard the Board of Trustees of “People’s TV” Foundation announced: “By not granting “Meltex” LLC with the requested documents in reasonable time, NCTR failed to ensure the transparency of the competitions. Thus, NCTR violated the right of “Meltex” LLC to freedom of information, undermining the impartiality of the competition.”
A day before, on December 14, the international human rights organization “Freedom House” called the Armenian authorities to grant a license to “A1+” TV company. “Freedom House” reminded about the 12 attempts of “A1+” to re-issue its license, the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights delivered in favor of the TV company, as well as about the civil action of collecting funds to support “A1+”. It should be noted that the fundraising is held by the “People’s TV” Foundation (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 3-9, 2010).
“A thirteenth denial of “A1+” lawful request for a license would be a slap in the face to advocates of free media everywhere. The people of Armenia, through their efforts to assist “A1+”, have clearly shown their support for press freedom. By re-issuing this license, Armenian authorities will answer their call for a more pluralistic and independent media”, said David J. Kramer, “Freedom House” Executive Director.
“Ahead of 2012 parliamentary elections, there is a real opportunity for the Government of Armenia to demonstrate its willingness not only to turn the page in relation to the events of March 2008, but to correct past wrongs from more than two years ago”, added Sam Patten, “Freedom House” Senior Program Manager for Eurasia.
On December 16 the founder of “ArmNews” TV company was determined by the NCTR to be the winner of competition No.11. The latter had received 44 points. The application of “A1+” founder got 2 points: 7 of the 8 NCTR members rating with 0 points. That zero of NCTR was considered by the “A1+” Head Mesrop Movsesian not to be the rating of the TV company’s application, but the one of the country’s current situation.
After announcing the competition results the NCTR Chairman Grigor Amalian explained the decision of NCTR members mainly by the fact that the supporting documents on the financial assistance by foreign companies to the business program of “Meltex’” LLC appeared to be forged. The companies, mentioned in the “A1+” application, simply do not exist, assured Grigor Amalian. In its turn, Mesrop Movsesian assessed these accusations as nonsense.
Thus, the slap, anticipated by “Freedom House”, was heard. Yet again…
See below about the results of the other broadcast licensing competitions.