YPC Weekly Newsletter

2010


“A1+” STARTS LEGAL PROCESS AGAINST NCTR

On December 20 in Yerevan the press conference of the Head of “A1+” TV company Mesrop Movsesian and the “A1+” attorneys Tigran Ter-Yesayan and Alexander Sahakian was held. The meeting with journalists was conditioned by the thirteenth denial of the National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) to grant a broadcast license to “A1+” and by the further statements of the NCTR Chairman Grigor Amalian on the falsification of the supporting documents on the financial assistance by foreign companies to the business program of “Meltex’” LLC, “A1+” founder. As it has been reported, the results of the 18 competitions on broadcast licensing in the digital network, announced by NCTR on July 20, 2010, were released on December 16. The “A1+” founder, “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. This competition attracted the outmost attention. “ArmNews” was determined by the NCTR members to be the competition winner, receiving 44 points, while “A1+” got only 2 points (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 10-16, 2010).

At the press conference the representatives of “A1+” announced that due to the denial of the NCTR, “Meltex’” LLC starts a legal process. The NCTR decision on competition No.11, stored on its website www.tvradio.am, was also quoted: “Even though, the volume of national production programs, the volume of own production programs, the possibility of ensuring pluralism, the professional background of the staff are satisfactory, the financial means for supporting them, as well as for providing technical resources, cannot be considered sufficient, given that the significant part of the supporting documents on the financial assistance ($ 120,000 and 280,000 EURO) is forged and unjustified (…).” Namely, this fact renders impossible for “À1+” to implement a complete broadcast in the digital network in Yerevan, assured the NCTR.

According to “A1+” representatives, the business program, presented in the application, had sufficient financial support of more than $ 1 million. A simple arithmetic calculation shows that the investments of other donors would be enough for implementing the program, the “A1+” representatives emphasized. And if NCTR had checked the information about the two potential investors, as Grigor Amalian told, then what did prevent it from requesting evidence from others? This particularly regards the French company “SOS-Camping-Loisirs", the main partner of “A1+” since 2003, who engaged for the largest amount of 280,000 EURO. Meanwhile, as it was noted, NCTR had not addressed to “SOS-Camping-Loisirs” and the company has demanded the NCTR to explain the reasons for prejudicing its guaranties. “A1+” representatives informed that some of the main donors of the TV company have already confirmed their financial assistance and the corresponding documents are submitted to NCTR. As regards the two companies, considered to be “forged” by NCTR, “A1+” made an official request to the NCTR, demanding to provide with the correspondence dealing with the companies. It should be noted that some of the documents are stored in the NCTR website in a fresh “No Comments” section.

At the press conference the “A1+” representatives informed about their appeal to the court. On December 20 “Meltex” LLC, founder of the TV company, filed the RA Administrative Court, demanding to bind the National Commission on Television and Radio to grant the copies of the competition applications of “ArmNews” CJSC and “Armenia TV” CJSC (founder of “Armenia” TV company). As it has been reported, on December 1 “Meltex” made a respective request to the NCTR. In its reply, December 6, NCTR noted that the copies can be provided only after January 20, 2011. On December 15 the Board of Trustees “People’s TV” Foundation (created in mid-October to support “A1+” TV company) released a statement, noting: “By not granting “Meltex” LLC with the requested documents in reasonable time, NCTR failed to ensure the transparency of the competitions.” Thus, it violated the right of “A1+” founder to freedom of information and “undermined the impartiality of the competition”.

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.

The thirteenth unsuccessful attempt of “A1+” for resuming its air provoked a new tide of critics both in Armenia and abroad. International human rights organization “Freedom House” considered the denial of “A1+” lawful request for a license as a slap in the face to advocates of free media everywhere. The international organization "Human Rights Watch" assessed it as another setback for freedom of expression and information in Armenia. By expressing its great disappointment with the work of NCTR, the Board of Trustees of “People’s TV” Foundation stated: “NCTR and the Armenian authorities disregarded the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of “Meltex” LLC, a number of documents, the exhortations of respectable international organizations, as well as the opinion of its own public.”