The National Commission on Television and Radio has announced a competition for licensing TV and radio broadcasting on the vacant and vacated frequencies. Thus, this body established in accordance with the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, adopted in October, 2000, currently begins to implement its main function. The very first steps taken by the Commission on this way show that it seeks to regulate the activities of private broadcasters as much as possible. In particular, the competition terms are quite strict in defining such criteria as the time when broadcasting should start; the minimum share of self-produced programs; the minimum share of newscasts; the maximum degree of deviation from the broadcast schedule, etc. Meanwhile, the broadcasting legislation stipulates rigidly only the minimum share of locally produced programs, other criteria can only be taken into consideration when determining the winners in the competition.
In other words, as some experts think, the National Commission on Television and Radio exceeds the mandate given by the Law. Moreover, it looks as if the Commission has decided in advance who is to be the winner of this or that competition. Thus, the future winner of the competition for the 21st UHF in Yerevan must devote at least 55% of airtime to programs for children and adolescents (such as education, entertaining, instructive, sports programs, etc.) At the same time, the applicants for other frequencies (again in Yerevan) face quite different requirements. It remains a mystery when and based on what research findings the Commission was able to determine what Armenian TV audience needs, in what proportion and on which frequency.
The threat to the market relations in the broadcasting area, fragile as they are, the menace to the future of independent broadcasters are obvious. Against the background of the draft law “On Mass Communication” developed by the RA Ministry of Justice, all this looks as a massive attack on the freedom of speech (see details on the draft law in the pieces above as well as the YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 26 – February 1, 2002, and February 2-8, 2002).