To Oversee Armenian TV Content or Not? Opinions on Latest Developments

To Oversee Armenian TV Content or Not? Opinions on Latest Developments
Caricature by Arzo

The Public Council will discuss the content of locally produced television.

After the meeting between Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Public Council President Vazgen Manukyan, a decision was reached [AM] to organize discussions with the participation of the National Commission on TV and Radio, heads of TV companies, and concerned individuals and NGOs to develop programs to change the broadcasting policies of public and private TV companies.  

Recently, several citizens and organizations sent a letter to the country's president, expressing their concern regarding locally produced "aggressive, criminal, potentially criminogenic and anti-social soap operas" and "so-called 'comedy' programs" broadcast on television.

The authors of the letter are asking the president for stricter control of the airwaves and to develop new standards, defining what they consider to be prohibited content with scientific and analytical means. If TV companies don't apply these standards they should be held administratively accountable, the authors of the letter add.

We present a few opinions on these latest developments by those in the industry: 

Gagik Buniatyan
Managing Director, Public TV Company of Armenia 

294

That there is this problem, I assume, is obvious to all of us. If television has the right to enter every household, it also has to be responsible for its product. And soap opera producers, in the first place, have to be responsible, so that they don't preach anti-educational and immoral things. But the market is just forming and this is the phase that we must go through. 

All have to participate in discussion of this issue — heads of television, representatives of the public, and academics, intellectuals. I think the discussions will play a positive role, and as a result, we'll all understand that there are norms that we ourselves have to maintain. 

Gegham Manukyan
Director of News and Political Programs, Yerkir Media TV 

295

I welcome the concern of those who initiated [these latest developments]; however, I don't believe that such a commission can lead to any results. It is the citizen of the Republic of Armenia who is the overseer. If a citizen of the Republic of Armenia is concerned that soap operas are criminal and immoral [in their content], then he shouldn't watch all that immorality because he becomes a participant of that immorality. 

I call on the Public TV Company Board, led by the chair, to first be concerned with Armenia's political degradation, from which these immoral soap operas are born. 

Zhirayr Dadasyan
Vice President, National Commission on TV and Radio

296I think the [proposed] commission to supervise content might be an unnecessary body. When a few years ago we developed standards, some of which worked in part and had a serious impact in the industry, then didn't work because of amendments to the law, we formed expert groups, which worked on those [standards] for about two months. That is to say, when there's the need, it's possible to gather a group, but it can't be a permanent body that will oversee television content because it will contradict the article on editorial freedom in the Law on Mass Media. Now, basically, the process of developing standards has to begin again.

But the issues raised in the letter aren't resolved only by standards — there's an issue here of raising both the level of professionalism in the industry and the quality of production. The ideal option would be self-regulation, which would result in TV companies being able to reach an agreement on many issues. It would be right, as well, for civil society to respond directly to a given TV company's production and present its demands to the TV company itself. The connection between civil society and television shouldn't be mediated by any commission. 

If the standards are enforced by law and the processes I mentioned above are also put into play, I believe we'll see some positive results. 

Anna Barseghyan

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