What You Will and Won’t Know by Watching Only H1 News

Mesrop Harutyunyan

Writer by calling

On Mar. 11, 2013, I decided to do something I had been wanting to do for a while but kept putting off. Let’s assume I am a resident of a remote town in Armenia, I don’t have an internet connection, and I can receive the news only by watching the state broadcaster’s news program on its main channel H1. What would I know and what wouldn’t I know?

The first broadcast of the news on Mar. 11 was at 1 pm. The first piece of news: Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan will depart for Moscow. An official statement on the meetings and discussions that are to take place.

Then, the Constitutional Court examining the lawsuit launched by presidential candidates Raffi Hovannisian and Andrias Ghukasyan has begun. No video footage of the event. Shown are archival shots accompanied by remarks on who will present the suit, who will respond, and so on. Then we are told the TV station crew are on the scene and recent developments will be conveyed in later broadcasts.

Note, the Constitutional Court session began at 10 am and at least three websites were live streaming the event. 

The next piece of news: in response to Panorama.am’s question, Serzh Sargsyan’s press secretary explains that Sargsyan invited Hovannisian to meet with him, but the latter refused. As for why such a question arose and why such an explanation was necessary, the TV viewer doesn’t know because nothing is said about neither Hovannisian’s expectation for a meeting with Sargsyan nor the hunger strike he declared the previous day.

The next piece of local news: nominations for Yerevan’s Council of the Aldermen elections have begun… and that’s all for the local news. Nothing else is happening in Armenia; the news program moves on to world news.

The channel describes the fire in Germany and its victims, but that a bus full of 20 Armenians crashed in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province — not a word. The news program also covered the protests in Baku, even showing video footage, but about the sit-in of Hovannisian’s supporters — not a word. There’s a strike in Spain, a new pope is to be elected in Vatican City, and Faulkland Islands held a referendum. 

And then again we return to Armenia and… Serzh Sargsyan has sent a congratulatory message to Elda Grin on her 85th anniversary. But this news was already online yesterday. Ok, fine, I’m thinking, yesterday was Sunday, they didn’t report the news; that’s why they’re reporting it today.

But how great is my surprise when the same statement about this same congratulatory message is heard also in the 5 pm and, take heed, in the main — 9 pm — broadcasts? 

Then, news that RA Academy of Sciences academic Suren Avdalbegian has passed away and that Serzh Sargsyan sent his condolences to the family… this too was yesterday, but it was repeated in all three broadcasts of the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia news program, with the 9 pm broadcast including a comprehensive report on the academic. One more thing: The news commentator ends the 1 pm broadcast with the following sentence: “We will see you at 5 pm with more recent news.”

Impatiently, I wait for the 5 pm broadcast — naturally, to find out more recent news. Finally the time comes, and aha, some fresh news: Sargsyan welcomed Permanent Under-Secretary of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Simon Fraser to his office. Naturally, an official release — with statements that say nothing at all.

And then… well then we get the 1 pm news in its entirety and in the same order. Serzh Sargsyan will depart for Moscow, the Constitutional Court session… oh good, there is video footage from the day, but the commentary is the same: I wait with abated breath for something new… there is, but the remark is such that it implies how unprepared those who’ve appealed to the Constitutional Court are and how sweet the judges and defendants are.

… And then suddenly, Armenia’s Central Electoral Commission Chairperson Tigran Mukuchyan’s response… well, of course, the news program couldn’t do without that, could it? Well the TV station couldn’t very well give Hovannisian’s representatives’ or Ghukasyan’s response, could it? What’s important is the CEC chairperson’s opinion; TV viewers are waiting only for that and couldn’t care less about the opinion of the other side… it was very recent news, very…

And again Sargsyan’s secretary’s response to Panorama.am’s question, about Hovannisian refusing to meet with Sargsyan. That Hovannisian’s election campaign spokesperson Hovsep Khurshudyan had already provided an explanation doesn’t make it in the story. Well, that’s not recent news, is it? What’s important is the opinion of one side; that is, the official opinion.

Then again the same statements and same images regarding the Yerevan Council of the Aldermen elections… then off to international news. All are the same from the 1 pm broadcast…

Oh! Something new: in Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met with the opposition in Syria. Between 1 and 5 pm, nothing else new has happened in the world, apparently. We return to Armenia. The German and French ambassadors presented a history book at the university. It’s good; it’s news. 

Let’s wait and see what else is new: at 3 pm, there was an earthquake near Armavir, which was felt at Metsamor, but wait, doesn’t this affect the nuclear power plant and the safety of residents there? Isn’t it logical that this would be the first news in this broadcast, not some passing thing? Moreover, there should’ve been explanations, that it doesn’t pose any danger or it does… No, nothing. A brief reference that is forgotten and is no longer heard, not even in the main, 9 pm broadcast. 

And then, Sargsyan congratulating Elda Grin… academic Avdalbegian passed away… and some report about beekeeping. The end. Raffi Hovannisian is not on a hunger strike, and nothing is happening in the capital’s Liberty Square.

Let’s wait for the 9 pm broadcast; perhaps we’ll hear something new. We did: Serzh Sargsyan has already left for Moscow… the rest is the same: what meetings there will be, what will be discussed, and so on. 

Then, well, the standard — prior to leaving for Moscow, Sargsyan met with Simon Fraser, the latter also meeting with Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian. But I’ve already seen information online about Fraser’s press conference, But nothing on the state broadcaster’s channel about that. Well, they wouldn’t say that Fraser’s remarks regarding the Customs Union weren’t too favorable, would they?

Nominations for Yerevan’s Council of the Aldermen began today… with the exact same remarks and same archival footage as shown on the 1 pm broadcast… the Constitutional Court session… let me not repeat it all — the same report, with the same one-sided opinion…

Wait, something new! Hovannisian, who yesterday announced he will be going on a hunger strike, gave a press conference at Liberty Square… the response? Only Putin’s and other’s congratulatory remarks… as for what Hovannisian said about domestic political issues or the demands of his hunger strike… nothing. 

Instead, we heard again that Sargsyan’s press secretary spoke of Hovannisian’s refusal to meet — but Hovannisian addressed this in his press conference, and his spokesperson Hovsep Khurshudyan also gave an explanation… but the First Channel says nothing of this. 

Aha, again a reference to the protests in Azerbaijan, with practically the same commentary. Apparently, youth have not yet begun their sit-in at Liberty Square in Yerevan.

We moved on to international news, and then again the history book launch at the university, Avdalbegian’s death (with a detailed report); scientist Mikayel Minasyan also died, the new governor of Shirak province was presented in Gyumri, there was another consultation at Yerevan City Hall, and of course, the congratulations to Elda Grin. You probably figured out that all this ends with a report on beekeeping…

And so if you watch only H1 and you don’t have internet, you won’t know what really happened at the Constitutional Court hearing, you won’t know what Hovannisian said at his press conference or that a foreign election observer in a letter declared evidence of electoral violations… you won’t know why Hovannisian refused Sargsyan’s offer to meet with him and how he responded basically to the threat… there’s a lot more you won’t know. 

Instead, you’ll know very well what Serzh Sargsyan did the entire day, how great the representatives of the authorities are in the Constitutional Court, what a horrible country Azerbaijan is (where they lash out at protestors)… you just won’t know who Elda Grin is and why congratulating her is mentioned three times in a single day…

Mesrop Harutyunyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

Add new comment

Comments by Media.am readers become public after moderation. We urge our readers not to leave anonymous comments. It’s always nice to know with whom one is speaking.

We do not publish comments that contain profanities, non-normative lexicon, personal attacks or threats. We do not publish comments that spread hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *