The 2018 Revolution and the elections have created an opportunity to make serious changes in the field of broadcasting in Armenia.
The Armenian journalistic community has been trying to change the law on Television and Radio for many years, which did not contribute to media development in the digital age. The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, the Media Initiatives Center and the Yerevan Press Club, from time o time, have made various legislative proposals, some of which have been submitted to the previous parliament.
The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) is drafting a new draft law on broadcasting that will be submitted to the three parliamentary factions after discussing it with partner organizations.
Notice instead of licensing
CPFE President, Ashot Melikyan, suggests liberalizing broadcasting. As a gained experience, Melikyan brings the example of neighboring Georgia, where the procedure for licensing television and radio companies has changed. There, the license has been replaced by a notice.
“Our logic is as follows: if you are not a licensed company ,then you are not Television. Whereas any company can, for example, open a website and have internet broadcasts. This is not prohibited by the law. Why should the law hamper the ability for the same to be done for on-air broadcasting? After digitization, this is very real, as several TV companies can air programs on one frequency. Now why should the on-air broadcaster and internet broadcaster work in unequal conditions? We must introduce the notice system too,” said Ashot Melikyan.
If anyone has a registered company, has finances, equipment, staff, if they are law-abiding businessman, they should have the right to open a television company. This is one of the pivotal approaches of the journalistic community. According to Melikyan, the legal person should only inform the NCTR that they are setting up a television named after themself, in this or that direction, and that’s it. The NCTR should only make sure that the law is not being violated, for example in terms of pornography or alcohol advertising and so on.
The demand for private multiplexers
“In the digital era, an analogue era syndrome has been created in the field of television in Armenia. Only a state multiplex was created, and everyone both digital and non-digital television companies, were caught up in one place. Meanwhile, digitalization is supposed to create private multiplexes as well,” said Ashot Melikyan.
In 2018, the NCTR has already canceled a private multiplex competition for the third time. Organizations do not apply, because the conditions provided for in the law are not serious in terms of business. The annual fee is 100 million AMD. In Eastern Europe, it is much cheaper, for example in Romania it is 18,000 euros.
As a result of the competition, regional TV channels with analog broadcasting continue to be deprived of the possibility of digital broadcasting. Media organizations propose to define the possibility of small multiplexes in the law.
“Let them be able to create a multiparty one or a few communities, with the involvement of one or more provinces, or nationally, and let the law allow for it,” said the CPFE President.
Media organizations will also propose amendments to the Public Television and Radio Council, as well as the functions of the NCTR.