On July 20 in “Congress” hotel of Yerevan the book, “Expert Analysis of the Broadcast Licensing Competition Results of December 2010”, was presented. The study was carried out by Yerevan Press Club under the homonymous project, supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. In March-June, 2011 the expert group, established by YPC, has analyzed the organization, holding and summing up of the 25 digital broadcast licensing competitions, the competition bids and the results. The YPC working group included experts from different fields: Media Expert Mesrop Harutiunian, Anna Israelian, Observer of “Aravot” daily, Suren Saghatelian, procurement specialist and Board Member of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, Isabella Sargsian, specialist in finances and Project Coordinator of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Konstantin Geodakian, Technical Director of Internews Media Support NGO, Mikayel Hovhannisian, Project Coordinator of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, and Edik Baghdasarian, Head of “Investigative Journalists” NGO. The experts sought to identify how the broadcast legislation and licensing competitions held in 2010 did enhance the TV market, pluralism and diversity of the Armenian TV air, as well as to determine the level of impartiality and objectivity of the regulatory body, National Commission on Television and Radio, while determining the winners.
The experts, in particular, came to the following conclusions:
– Amendments made to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” on June 10, 2010 did not ensure the development of the TV market, the holding of open, fair and transparent competitions, the pluralism and diversity of TV air.
– The Law articles related to licensing and the competitions held by the NCTR based on those articles, did not rule out the possibility of subjective decision-making. This was particularly clear during the summarization of competition No.11, when the bid of the founder of “A1+” TV company was given a score of only 2.
– While summarizing the results of the competitions, NCTR has not shown a uniform approach in forming justifications. For the four competitions which had two participants, NCTR has provided justifications regarding the decisions on determining the winner. Whereas, in cases when the competition had one participant, all 21 NCTR decisions on determining the winners have the same standard formulation: “(…) after reviewing the submitted bid and attached documents it has become clear that they meet the requirements established by RA legislation.” According to the expert group, this does not meet the justification standards required by Part 3 of Article 49 of the RA Law “On Television and Radio”.
– To 27 out of the 29 competition bids, members of NCTR gave similar scores. Thus, similar scores were given to television companies with long-term experience that have much less technical, human resource, or financial issues, and newly established companies that have nothing but good intentions.
– NCTR had not specified the mandatory and optional lists of financial documentation to be presented in the bids. As a result, the applications were composed in “freestyle”; financial documents, agreements, etc. were not subject to any standardization. This made them almost impossible to compare. In addition, financial documents were often developed carelessly, and contained arithmetical and factual errors.
– The Procedure for Conducting Licensing Competitions, approved by NCTR, only provides that the bid should contain information on the technical means and equipment to be used. This document does not contain clear criteria for technical assessment of the bid. As a result, NCTR members have assessed the bids’ sections on technical means as they wish.
Pursuant to the abovementioned, the expert group made the following recommendations:
– Amending the RA Law “On Television and Radio” so that the ratings-based voting is guided by separate criteria provided by legislation, instead of giving one score to the entire bid.
– Providing in the Law that “professional background of the staff” criterion is assessed taking into consideration the professionalism of the management staff and clarity of organizational structure. This is necessary to avoid repetition of facts recorded during the last competition process, when Russian show business stars, actors of different theatres, and people living abroad were presented in the bids as employees of Armenian television companies.
– Removing “capacity to promote pluralism” from the assessment criteria provided by the Law, and replacing it with “conformity of program policy with orientation of the competition”.
– Adding a new criterion in the Law, according to which, while assessing the bid of a currently active television company, NCTR will be obligated to take into consideration the extent to which the bidder has kept promises made in past license terms and has implemented license requirements.
– Establishing one format for presenting in the bids the volume of domestic and own programming.
– Setting forth a provision in the Law that will oblige NCTR to post competition bids with all attached documents on its website immediately after opening the documents for the conduction of public discussions.
– Establishing a list of mandatory and optional financial documents that bidders are to provide within the NCTR Procedure for Conducting Licensing Competitions, as well as clear criteria for assessment of the technical component of the bid.
The expert analysis is attended by the Comment of “Article 19” international organization.
The full text of the “Expert Analysis of the Broadcast Licensing Competition Results of December 2010” (in Armenian and English) will soon be placed on www.ypc.am, in “Studies” section.