YPC Weekly Newsletter
2005
February 11-17
THE TWELFTH “PRESS CLUB” SHOW

On February 14 on the evening air of the Second Armenian TV Channel the twelfth “Press Club” show was issued. The cycle is organized by Yerevan Press Club under a homonymous project, supported by the OSI Network Media Program.

The heads of leading media and journalistic associations of Armenia discussed two major subjects: the possible reasons for the major skirmish on February 4 in Yerevan, and the situation at the parliament and its failure to start the spring session. The program participants expect the central subjects of Armenian media this week to be the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Armenia and the reports of the Government on the work done in 2004. By the suppositions of “Press Club” show guests, the media will keep in the focus of their attention the investigation on the criminal skirmish named above, as well as the response of Armenian public to the arrest of the Chairman of “Union of Armenian Aryans” Armen Avetisian, charged with national hostility incitement.

"A1+" WAS REFUSED AIR FOR THE TENTH TIME

On February 14 at the session of the National Commission on Television and Radio the results of the broadcast licensing competitions, announced on September 16 and 17, 2004, were announced. As it has been reported, the National Commission considered the bids for the competitions on December 27 and 28 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 7-13, 2005).

The winners of the September 16 competitions were two TV companies, the only ones who claimed the UHFs in Yeghegnadzor and Gyumri: the right to air on 22nd frequency of Yeghegnadzor was won by “Dzori Kanch” LLC and that on 33rd UHF in Gyumri by “CHAP” LLC. The bid of the other only applicant for 36th UHF in Vardenis, “SAMELON” LLC, was deemed by the National Commission to be incompliant with the competition requirements and with the RA Law “On Television and Radio”. Due to this, the competition was annulled. The 22nd UHF in Spitak was claimed by three LLCs at once - “Anna ev Karen”, “Medea Soft”, “Alik-Arman”. By the voting of the National Commission members, the right to broadcast on this frequency was granted to “Anna ev Karen” LLC.

In the competitions of September 17 the winner for the 30th UHF in Artashat was “Telelex” company. The owner of a license to eight FMs in Armenian cities was “ArRadioIntercontinental” company. Neither the TV nor the radio company had competitors. The other package of 20 FMs in different cities of the country was granted to Radio “HAY”, the bid of which was rated by the National Commission higher than that of “Van” radio station.

The greatest interest of the journalistic community was caused by competitions for two FMs in Yerevan, since among the bidders for these was also “MS Explorer” LLC, founded by “A1+” TV company (deprived of air since April 2002) and the Center “Cooperation for Democracy”. By the voting of the National Commission, the right to be aired on 100.6 MHz was granted to “Avrora” radio, and on 101.1 MHz - to “Avtoradio”.

YPC Comment: It remains at least amazing that “A1+”, founded in 1991 and one of the most popular news TV channels for many years on end, is permanently losing broadcast licensing competitions. The authorities and the NCTR continue claiming that all the decisions on “A1+” are adopted by the National Commission on Television and Radio independently and in accordance with the law. In the last report of the Monitoring Group of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (the group of Roland Wegener) on Armenia implementing its commitments to the CE, approved by the Committee of Ministers on January 22, 2005, it was noted that during the meeting with the RA President in Yerevan, the representatives of the group raised the issue of “A1+”, stressing its “symbolic value”. To this the RA President repeated that he cannot interfere into the frequency allotment process, insisting at the same time on the need for media pluralism in the country and asked again for “an international audit of the Armenian broadcast landscape”. The report of the Wegener Group also voiced its unease over the lack of changes in the membership of the broadcast supervisory bodies (NCTR and the Council of the Public TV and Radio Company), the members of which are still appointed by a single authority, the President of the country. We shall not reiterate again that both the refusal to license “A1+” and the non-democratic procedure of the regulatory bodies formation are in the focus of constant attention of journalistic community as well as reputable international organizations: year after year in practically all the reports on the situation of freedom of expression and press in Armenia the need to solve these two issues is emphasized. Meanwhile, on February 14 the National Commission refused “A1+” the possibility to go on air for the tenth time - this time as a radio...

MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL OF PUBLIC TV AND RADIO COMPANY APPOINTED

On February 14 the RA President Robert Kocharian signed a decree of appointing Stepan Poghosian and Henrik Hovhannissian to be the members of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company with a six-year term of service each. The competition for the two vacancies in the PTRC Council was announced on January 20 and held on February 7 by the competition commission, formed by the President of Armenia. According to the notice published by the commission on February 16, it presented the winners of the competition to the head of the state along with a written justification for the selection, proceeding from which Robert Kocharian appointed Stepan Poghosian and Henrik Hovhannissian to the position of the PTRC Council members. The choice of the commission was grounded on the circumstance that “Stepan Poghosian and Henrik Hovhannissian, as compared to other applicants, are much more adequate to the criteria stipulated by the law”. In particular, it was noted that “the winners have scientific degrees, are authors of dozens of monographs and articles, have a rich biography and a long-year work experience, including activity as members of the Council of the Public TV and Radio Company in 2001-2005”.

YPC Comment: It should be noted that the arts critic Henrik Hovhannissian and Stepan Poghosian, who had been heading the State Committee on Television and Radio of Armenia for many years, are certainly well-established professionals and enjoy the respect of the society. In other words, the fact that the competition commission has selected these reputable people, thus enabling them to continue their activity as PTRC Council members, is beyond question. However, there is another circumstance of extreme concern. The competition for the vacancies in the PTRC Council was held for the first time in accordance with amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” adopted in December 2003. According to these changes, the data on the candidates for the positions of PTRC Council members were to be published in the mass media. This did not happen: the public did not learn anything no only about the data of the candidates, but even who they are. Were there other nominees in the competition besides Stepan Poghosian and Henrik Hovhannissian? If so, who are they? This is not only a matter of violating the broadcast law. The very first competition revealed the invalidity of the assurances made by higher officials that the formation of the broadcast regulatory bodies through a competition will ensure their transparency. This is what the Council of Europe hoped for, too, upon the recommendation of which, again, as our authorities urged, this new procedure for vacancy filling was adopted. To spare space, we will not repeat ourselves as always, saying that the whole mechanism of the broadcast regulatory bodies’ formation has nothing to do with democracy and transparency. There is only one thing transparent: the competition held is an imitation of democratic procedures. The show is going on.

NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TELEVISION AND RADIO FILED A SUIT VERSUS “HAYRENIK TV”

On February 15 the National Commission on Television and Radio addressed the RA Commercial Court with a suit versus “Hayrenik TV”, obliging the TV company to pay the fine, YPC was told by NCTR. NCTR clarified that the start of a litigation is explained by the expiration of the deadline legally stipulated for the fine payment. As it has been reported, NCTR had penalized “Hayrenik TV” on January 18 for the re-broadcasting of programs by French “Mezzo” TV channel and demonstration of unlicensed films. This decision of the National Commission caused a broad negative response of the press (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 28 - February 3, 2005).

“Aravot” daily of February 15 quoted the response of “Hayrenik TV” owner, the President of “Grand Holding” company Hrant Vardanian to the NCTR intention of claiming the fine through the court. Hrant Vardanian said that he would make a decision after he met and discussed some issues with the Chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company Alexan Harutiunian, who, as Vardanian put it, is the supervisor of Grigor Amalian, the NCTR Chairman. In replay to this, Alexan Harutiunian in his interview to “Aravot” of February 16 advises Hrant Vardanian to meet “some of the junior legal staff of NCTR” and to clarify all the issues. Besides, Alexan Harutiunian stressed that the activities of the public and private broadcasters is regulated by different bodies.

According to the communication of “Arminfo” news agency of February 15, the owner of “Hayrenik TV” announced that he was not going to be “a victim of bribery”, would not follow Grigor Amalian’s will and would not pay the penalty. The well-known businessman is even ready to shut down “Hayrenik TV” should the need arise, but he will not stop the rebroadcast of “Mezzo” TV channel that has no claims in this regard. Hrant Vardanian told the correspondent of “Arminfo” that the head of NCTR personally controls the sale of the right to demonstrated licensed films and for this reason he is lobbying his own economic interests, inducing the TV channels to refuse the rebroadcasts of foreign programs. “Amalian had better control the implementation of the requirements of the adverting law, which is violated by the TV channels day in and day out”, Hrant Vardanian stressed.

As to the active advertising of strong alcoholic drinks, in particular, the vodka, on the Armenian TV air, as the head of NCTR said at a press-conference of February 14, the National Commission is not always able to impose sanctions on the broadcasters due to the imperfection of the RA Law “On Advertising”. While the Law prohibits the advertising of strong alcoholic drinks, with the exception of brandy, and of tobacco products in the broadcast media, it does not, however, restrict the indirect advertising of the production.

It should be noted that this point refers to the advertising of brands. Due to this we propose the readers to make a small test for themselves. If you see on TV an outline of a bottle with a name of popular Russian vodka, “Russkiy Razmer”, or a small glass of colorless liquid accompanied with a snack of sprat with a toast of “To Nemiroff all around the World”, how long will it take you to understand what is being advertised?

“INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS" AGAIN WIN THE CASE VERSUS THE YEREVAN MUNICIPALITY

On January 10 the RA Court of Cassation declined the suit of Yerevan municipality, challenging the previous ruling of the RA Court of Appeals of December 1, 2004. According to this ruling, the body of the secondary jurisdiction secured the suit of “Investigative Journalists” NGO against the Yerevan municipality, obliging the latter to prove the organization with the documents necessary for a journalistic investigation (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 26 - December 2, 2004). As it has been reported, “Investigative Journalists” demanded the Yerevan municipality to present the copies of the resolutions it made 1997-2003 on the construction in the public green zone around the National Opera and Ballet Theater. In June and September 2004 this demand was rejected by the courts of primary and secondary jurisdiction. In October the Court of Cassation redirected the case to a repeated consideration of the Court of Appeals (the new composition), which secured the suit of “Investigative Journalists” in December.

JUBILEE ISSUE OF “PAKAGITS”

On February 11, the 100th issue of “Pakagits” newspaper was issued. Yerevan Press Club congratulates the colleagues on the jubilee and wishes them further success and prosperity.

When reprinting or using the information above, reference to the Yerevan Press Club is required.

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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