Though Armenia's National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) believes that Channel 12's rebranding doesn't violate the conditions of its broadcasting license, opinions on the matter vary.
According to NCTR, the TV company had informed it of its restructuring plans — a process that is under the Commission's supervision.
"At this time there is no violation of the law. Lime TV asked for time to develop the company, to refresh the area of news, and to offer new programs and proposals. We are intently following how long the transition will take," says NCTR member Armen Mkrtchyan.
According to him, the TV station is transforming gradually, and apart from entertainment programs it will offer economic, international and local news.
The TV company previously known as Hay TV and then Channel 12, in the 2010 digital broadcast licensing competition, was awarded a license for general profile, coverage in Yerevan (competition no. 15). At the end of April, the TV station began broadcasting with a new name ("Lime") and a new logo, calling itself a "new entertainment channel".
In an interview with Mediamax, the TV company's General Director Bagrat Grigoryan said, "The TV station has a general mandate, which includes entertainment, music, sport, movies, and news — connected to show business. We won't be offering political news and programs."
Later, Grigoryan had noted that the TV company hadn't changed its mandate — simply that implementing the new concept began with the entertainment component, which is an aspect of being creative, he said.
"During rebranding, entertainment was selected as the first component to transition… This is just the first stage, but there are second and third stages during which time all the components will be redeveloped and presented as new, fresh and with a new face. For example, in a short period of time you'll see news, general and other types of programs," he said.
Media expert Mesrop Harutyunyan, who raised this issue in his article on Aravot.am, finds that the company's mandate should've been finalized last year.
"They had a year and a half for rebranding and the rest — the competition concluded in December 2010. They won the bid for general profile and meeting the interests of the residents in their area (Yerevan) in the competition. Consequently, six months after the end of the competition, the company should've already completely assumed its mandate," he says.
According to Harutyunyan, the TV company doesn't address issues concerning Yerevan residents, contrary to Bagrat Grigoryan's assertion that Lime TV covers topics of concern to residents in the Armenian capital — "It offered a live broadcast of the 'Last Bell' [high school graduation celebrations] and events in the capital dedicated to the Day of Motherhood and Beauty were covered earlier."
"In the last three months, issues concerning Yerevan residents were, for example, events taking place in Mashtots Park and the demolition of the arches of the Pak Shuka [the famous closed market on Mashtots Ave.] — did you report on these? These, of course, are only one part of the overall issues. And it goes without saying that 'general profile' means that you have to have a public and political news program," Mesrop Harutyunyan says.
The media expert finds that the TV company has violated the conditions of its license, while NCTR turns a blind eye.
"I can only prove once again that NCTR penalizes TV companies selectively. Kentron TV was fined [the first time] for live broadcasting, but [the second time] it got off scot-free — it can punish one, but not the other. I can assume it doesn't punish this TV company [Lime TV] because — it's possible — the company has a powerful owner or patron," he says.
In the words of attorney Movses Hakobyan, deviating from the activities permissible by the license is a violation of both the license and the law.
"However, if the licensee isn't renouncing and isn't willfully changing its mandate and is only saying that it's preparing to do so, I don't see a violation," he says.
Hay TV, winning the bid in the digital broadcast licensing competition in 2010, assumed the obligation to provide its own programming in 70–80% of its broadcasting till 2020 — which includes broadcasting news, debates, sports and programs on issues of concerns to Yerevan residents.