SEMINAR ON STATE REGULATION AND SELF-REGULATION OF MEDIA
On December 14-16, Yerevan Press Club held a seminar “The Current Situation and Perspectives of State Regulation and Self-Regulation of Armenian Media” in Aghveran, Kotayk region. The event was organized in the frames of “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID. The seminar participants were members of the Media Ethics Observatory (MEO), heads, representatives of media outlets and journalistic organizations, including the ones who supported the YPC initiative of forming a media self-regulatory system in Armenia.
The themes for discussion were activities of the MEO in 2012 and the perspectives of online and traditional media self-regulation; suggestions for amending the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives; the court practice on the implementation of the RA legislation on libel and insult; the experience of self-regulatory bodies in other countries.
The Media Ethics Observatory was formed on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian media, who supported the YPC initiative on establishing a self-regulation system in Armenia and signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and its Appendix, the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles. The mission of the MEO considers complaints and appeals regarding the violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and making judgments on these. As of today, the Code of Conduct and the Declaration are signed by 45 entities, representing 48 Armenian media; the initiative is supported by 9 journalistic associations (see details at http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/eng). The MEO contacts are: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel. +374 10 53 76 62, 53 35 41, 53 00 67; Fax +374 10 53 56 61. Complaints and applications to MEO can also be addressed online, by filling out the form in Armenian on http://www.ypc.am/self_regul/ln/am#form.
BROADCASTERS ANNOUNCED TARIFFS FOR POLITICAL ADVERTISING DURING PRE-ELECTION PROMOTION
By December 18, 2012, public and private TV and radio companies of Armenia had to publicize their tariffs for political advertising during the official pre-election campaign for the RA Presidential Elections to be held on February 18, 2013. As we have reported, according to the December 8, 2012 RA Central Electoral Commission’s decision, the pre-election promotion of RA presidential candidates will be held through January 21 – February 16, 2013. In line with the Article 19 of the RA Electoral Code, the price for 1 minute of paid airtime announced by the broadcasters should not exceed the average price for commercial advertising set for the last six months and should not be changed until the end of official campaign (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 7-13, 2012).
According to the tariffs, defined by the Public TV and Radio Company, 1 minute of paid political advertising on the PTA First Channel costs 80,000 AMD (hereinafter all prices are indicated including VAT), on Public Radio – 3,600 AMD ($ 1 is equal to about 405 AMD). In accordance with the Electoral Code, each presidential candidate is entitled to 60 minutes of free and 120 minutes of paid airtime on the Public Television of Armenia, as well as to 120 minutes of free and 180 minutes of paid airtime on the Public Radio of Armenia. The procedure and schedule of providing free and paid airtime to presidential candidates by public broadcasters will be released by CEC on the next day after the official registration of the candidates, i.e., on January 15, 2013.
The tariffs of some private broadcasters mainly remained the same as in the run-up to 2012 parliamentary elections. Thus, on national TV channels, such as “Yerkir Media” and “Kentron”, the price for one minute of promotional airtime is 36,000 and 32,400 AMD, accordingly, while on the news TV channel of Yerevan, “ArmNews”, it costs 18,000 AMD. On the Second Armenian TV Channel the price of one airtime minute makes 60,000 AMD – from 10.00 till 24.00 on Sundays and from 18.00 till 24.00 on other week days (at other time a minute costs 30,000 AMD). On the Second Armenian TV Channel the overall duration of the paid airtime for each presidential candidate for the whole period of pre-election promotion is limited by 270 minutes, while the daily duration – by 10 minutes. On “Shant” TV channel, one minute of airtime costs 120,000 AMD, at the same time, each presidential candidate may receive not more than 7 minutes a day for pre-election promotion.
The regional TV companies of Gyumri did not change their prices, either: 10,000 AMD for a minute on “GALA” TV channel and 6,000 – on “Tsayg”. “ALT” TV channel of Armavir set a price of 3,600 AMD. At the same time, not all the TV companies will provide air for the pre-election campaign. Specifically, “Sosi” TV channel of Kapan and “MIG” TV channel of Vanadzor have reported about this.
According to the Electoral Code, public and private broadcasters are required to ensure equal access to air for all presidential candidates. The coverage of their electoral campaign in the TV/radio news programs should be unbiased and with no connotations. The TV/radio materials on pre-election promotion are prohibited to interrupt with advertising on services and goods.
As to the print media, the Electoral Code commits all newspapers and magazines, established by state and local self-government bodies, to ensure equal opportunities for presidential candidates during the pre-election campaign.
In line with the Electoral Code, when publicizing the findings of public opinion polls about the ratings of presidential candidates, the organizations that have administered the polls must specify the name of the organization that administered the survey, the timeframes, the sample size and sampling method, the data collection method and place, the exact question, the estimated error margin, the client of the poll. At the same time, the TV and radio companies are prohibited to publish findings of the exit polls on the ballot day before 20.00, i.e., before the electoral precincts are closed.
SUIT OF ARRHYTHMIC-CARDIOLOGICAL CENTER VERSUS NEWS.AM FOUNDER DISMISSED
On December 14, the Court of General Jurisdiction of Achapnyak and Davitashen administrative districts of Yerevan dismissed the suit of “Arrhythmic-Cardiological Center of Armenia” LLC (ACCA) versus the founder of online news agency News.am, “Media Consult” LLC (now – “News.am” LLC). As we have reported, the reason for going to law became the article “The Patient with a Diseased Heart Was “Puffed” at the Arrhythmic-Cardiological Center and Has Been Implanted with Another Device”, stored on News.am on November 23, 2010. The article told the story of the reader H.K., who alleged that he had been cheated at the Cardiological Center, since the doctors had implanted an electric cardiostimulator, cheaper and with a shorter warranty period than the one he had been promised before the surgery. The plaintiff demanded to refute the information that discredited his honor, dignity and business reputation, as well as to compensate the moral loss in the amount of 2 million AMD (about $ 5,500). The hearings on the case started on February 4, 2011. The story of H.K. was also published in “Aravot” daily, “Paying for 10 Years of Life, Got – Seven”, November 13, 2010. The ACCA had also contested this article, imposing the same demands to the “Aravot” founder, “Aravot Oratert” LLC. On November 3, 2011 the Court of General Jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan approved the friendly settlement between the parties (see details in “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia” Yerevan Press Club report for 2011 at http://www.ypc.am/about_freedom/ln/eng).
At the December 14, 2012 session, the Court dismissed the suit versus News.am as groundless. The Court particularly stated that the respondent is exempt of liability, since the disputed article contained a reference to the information source and was a verbatim reproduction from it. Besides, the Court stressed that the one-month term defined by law for submitting the suit was missed. The Court bound the ACCA to pay off the state duty (44,000 AMD) and the respondent’s costs for the attorney (200,000 AMD).
“ASPAREZ” RECEIVES REPLY ON ITS SUGGESTION OF BANNING COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING ON PTA
On December 14, “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri informed that it received a reply from the RA National Assembly Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. The Committee had answered to the suggestion of “Asparez” to introduce a legal ban on commercial advertising on the Public Television of Armenia. As we have reported, on October 31, Levon Barseghian, Board Chairman of “Asparez”, called the RA National Assembly deputies to amend the draft of the 2013 RA Budget and the RA Law “On Television and Radio”. The amendments were supposed to restrict the commercial advertising on the air of the public broadcaster, and instead – increase the budgetary allocations to PTA in the amount of 1 billion AMD (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 26 – November 1, 2012).
The letter, signed by Artak Davtian, Chairman of the specialized parliamentary Committee, particularly, noted that “the presented data (by “Asparez”, Ed.Note) are undoubtedly disturbing, however the National Assembly is not competent and cannot take any specific steps, except for taking these data into consideration” (see details at http://www.asparez.am/news-hy/haxordagrutyun-hy/).
“INTERNEWS” PUBLISHED SECOND HANDBOOK ON JOURNALISM ETHICS
“Internews” Media Support NGO published a handbook, titled “Journalism Ethics. Discussions and Analyses”. The book is divided in two parts: the first one presents the cycle by media expert Mesrop Harutiunian, “Discussions on Journalistic Ethics”. The second part contains articles by some authors telling about specific cases of violations of professional norms. This is the second handbook by “Internews” from the “Journalism Ethics” series. The first book, “Journalism Ethics: Cases and Comments”, was issued in 2011. The two handbooks are published in the frames of the “Promoting Freedom, Professionalism and Pluralism of the Media in the South Caucasus and Moldova” programme, co-funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe.
N.B. Dear readers, please note that the YPC Weekly Newsletter will next be issued in January 2013. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!