The law “On Audiovisual Media” has been amended and adopted by the National Assembly in a special 24-hour procedure. The amendments were proposed by the Civil Contract MP, Sisak Gabrielyan, and have been fully approved in the second reading.
The MP stated in the National Assembly that the advertising market’s financial distribution is currently handled by a single organization. International advertisers rely on ratings from that organization to distribute their ads, but these ratings may not always be impartial, leading to unfair distribution of ads.
Currently, “Atmosphere Armenia” is conducting television studies and measurements. However, the lack of regulations in this field has led to several problems.
- Representatives of the television industry do not participate in the measurement process and are unable to control the functions of Atmosphere Armenia.
- The measuring body decides in what way and by what methods the measurements of the TV audience should be carried out.
- There are no clear standards for forming advertising prices, and even if such standards existed, they are unreliable.
Last year, an international auditing company called 3M3A conducted an audit that revealed the TV ratings meter used by Atmosphere Armenia does not meet international standards. As a result, trust in the system and its reliability decreased even further. The audit report highlighted incomplete and unreliable results from the system.
To improve transparency and reliability in the industry, the new project proposes the following solutions:
- There is currently no system in place to rate TV channels and individual programs and to study the TV audience demand. However, this data is crucial for telemarketers and especially for representatives of the advertising market. Without proper mechanisms and tools to study individual programs and TV audiences, valuable insights are missed.
- To set up a committee for the TV industry and create a measurable pricing scale for the advertising market.
- The aim is to enhance the transparency of the measurement process and implement regulations regarding the financial transactions of TV companies.
The project proposes that TV stations create a council that will select the organization responsible for measuring TV viewership. The TV companies will have the option to oversee the activities of the measuring company.
Gemafin Gasparyan, the director of Yerevan-wide broadcasting company Boon TV, which has been a part of the public multiplex only since last year, has not yet dealt with the gaps and problems of previous measurement mechanisms. He attended the discussions regarding the proposed set of regulations and thinks that while the initiative has the potential to solve problems in the field, it remains to be seen if it will prove effective. Only time will tell.
“Previously, the regulatory landscape was more fluid than the current version. We believe there are indications that it’s possible to establish a system of fair and trustworthy measurements that industry players can rely on. Still, the success of this system will depend on its implementation. I cannot provide a definitive answer on how the system will function,” comments Gemafin Gasparyan.
Boris Navasardyan, the honorary president of the Yerevan Press Club, recognizes the importance of establishing the Industry Committee as proposed by the project, along with a dependable measurement organization. However, he finds the active involvement of the state in this process to be problematic.
“The fact that the establishment of such structures is governed by the law and conducted in accordance with legal requirements is already a concern. Our broadcasters should voluntarily pursue this path, and while the state can provide support and contribute to these processes, it should not overstep into the realm of interference. This bill, according to Navasardyan, seems to contain such an insinuation,” he comments.
The active involvement of the state in this process could give rise to several issues. In the future, some broadcasters may harbor suspicions that actions are being taken in favor of government-affiliated TV stations. They may fear that the entire process is being manipulated and the chosen measurement organization serves the interests of the authorities and media outlets closely associated with them. Navasardyan points out that Armenia has encountered such problems before, and he doesn’t see any guarantees in the proposed project to prevent a recurrence of these issues.
“I do not exclude the possibility of political motives behind this initiative. In recent years, we have witnessed significant efforts to shift the balance of broadcasters in our media market in favor of government-friendly and loyal television companies. This was exemplified by granting Public Television Company the ability to utilize commercial advertising. It’s apparent that the aim is to channel advertising funds towards preferred media outlets aligned with the state or the authorities.
In this scenario, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the motive is similar, and we may encounter fresh challenges concerning media independence in Armenia,” warns the honorary president of the Yerevan Press Club.
The amendment project to the law “On Audiovisual Media” was adopted in the second reading and entirely with 66 votes in favor, 24 abstentions, and 0 votes against.
The Television and Radio Commission will establish standards for television audience measurement until the Television Industry Committee and measurement company are selected.