10 Years Since A1+ Went Off the Air

Gegham Vardanyan

Physicist by education, journalist by occupation

The independent TV station A1+ was deprived of a broadcasting license on Apr. 2, 2002. Participating in the 37th broadcasting license competition in Yerevan were A1+ and Sharm Holding. Armenia’s National Commission on TV and Radio (NCTR) recognized Sharm as the winner, a decision local and international media organizations considered political. Depriving the TV station of a license was viewed as a restriction on freedom of the press in Armenia. On several occasions, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and international media organizations have issued statements in defense of A1+.

A1+ had a pronounced journalistic-analytical orientation. A1+ was a TV company which always provided airtime to the opposition. It was known by its timely coverage of the parliamentary shootings of Oct. 27, 1999, and it was due to the work of A1+ that the murder of Poghos Poghosyan in Aragast (Poplavok Jazz) Cafe by then president Robert Kocharian’s bodyguard received public resonance.

A1+ disputed the NCTR decision first in Armenia’s judicial system, then after being defeated, at the European Court of Human Rights (ECTR). On Jun. 17, 2008, the ECTR issued a ruling in A1+’s favor.

The A1+ issue was discussed for many years in Armenia–EU relations. Over the years, in various Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) resolutions on Armenia, the issue of getting A1+ back on air was discussed.

In the past 10 years, A1+ has participated 13 times in broadcasting license competitions announced by the NCTR for TV channels and once for a radio station. In all cases, the Commission rejected the A1+ application. The last time this happened was on Dec. 16, 2010.

Though it has remained without airwaves, A1+ hasn’t ceased its activities. It continues to operate as a TV production studio — its website is one of the most well-known sources of information in Armenia and it has the biggest audience (compared to other Armenian news outlets) on YouTube. A1+ is one of the pioneers of live broadcasting in Armenia and has greatly contributed to the development and spread of this technology in our country.

Gegham Vardanyan

P.S. View the slideshow on Media.am for photos of demonstrations over the years and of the day that A1+ was deprived of a broadcasting license.

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