vox populi

‘For me, all our Armenian channels are one television’

We have two young children in our family (and two adults who know quite well what airwaves, truth, and generally everything is). And for this reason we decided to replace television channels with new technology — AppleTV. We are able (when we want) to watch all of the world’s TV programs, to rent or purchase the latest releases and animation films, and to listen to music.

In other words, the information we need we can watch with this small device. We get news from Armenia through several websites. I, for example, read the papers online every morning and only afterwards leave the house. We all probably see that social networking sites, especially Facebook, also a huge source of information. On one hand, that makes me happy, but on the other hand, it saddens me, because Facebook steals about four hours of my life every night. It just eats them up that I don’t even notice. 

I don’t have much to say about our [local] television. For me, all our Armenian channels are one television; you change the channels and come across the same faces, the same subjects, and the same words. Probably if you look long and hard you’ll find something to watch — for example, in AR TV’s broadcasts. 

It’s quite unfortunate that the children’s channel Hayreniq was shut down a few years ago, since my kids had something to watch in the morning (whether we like it or not, now TV has more of an educational role than school), and I usually watched the old Soviet films with great pleasure. 

Being in different places, I’ve become convinced that there’s no country that doesn’t have a retro channel, that is, that doesn’t show its past. In the US, for example, there are a dozen retro channels: one features music; the other, films; the third, history. And all are educational channels. At the end of the day, we can’t shut the door to the past and completely forget what’s already happened. When we forget the past, we move toward destruction. And this is approximately what happened with local television. 

You see, old films show the human relationships, the environment, and scenes of the city of that period. And on the screen you clearly see how simple, open, and cordial contact among people was. You can’t escape it: in films and on broadcasts the screen magnifies and emphasizes human relationships in particular. Modern films also clearly show today’s human relations.  

Now, the media and especially television are mainly focused on political programs and the news (political parties bite, tear, and chew each other apart). Come on, that’s so ephemeral and uninteresting…

There’s one lasting thing and that’s culture. You watch old films and get enjoyment. We’ve now completely lost the culture of film and film production. In Armenia today, film production, television, and generally everything (beginning from the elections) has become a measure at the level of KVN (“Club of the Funny and Inventive,” a Russian humor TV show and competition). Sometimes you get the impression that the same person is organizing the elections, producing films, and managing television. 

I think, this is a very slyly developed intention or ignorance that’s reached its peak — either way the result is terrible. A result that astounds and dulls the brain…

It’s quite unfortunate that our intelligent, capable nation has such television and sources of information. I won’t even speak of diasporan Armenian TV channels, which generally are not worth watching. The diaspora doesn’t have the strength, experience, knowledge, and money to prepare its own TV programs, which is why it broadcasts programming produced in Armenia and mixes it all up with local advertising (for cheese, cold cuts, lawyers, and cameras).

I remember when I went to the US for the first time in 1991, and I watched the only Armenian channel — I was simply astounded at the poor quality (at that time Armenia’s television was a few notches higher). An ad might be, for example, a piece of paper on which was written, say, “Visit Garbis the Dentist”. Filmed was that black-and-white piece of paper, which someone would keep in the frame, shaking both his hand and the image.

Here’s another ad: One person was simultaneously playing the role of both the woman and the man. Man: “Wife, would you like some cheese?” Woman: “No, I don’t.” “Try some of this cheese — then we’ll talk.” “Oh, it’s so good; why hadn’t I tried it before?”

Of course this is comical, but I think when most of the advertising is related to food, there can be no talk of culture. 

Once I asked representatives of companies that measure TV ratings to explain what a rating is, since it was for me something incomprehensible like Chinese hieroglyphs. Of course, it’s obvious that measurement devices are placed in the homes of TV viewers from different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. But why not also place those devices in the homes of a group of chosen people (such as scientists and artists)? And let TV programming be planned also taking into consideration their tastes.

Now whenever there’s a tasteless rabiz song in 6/8 time broadcast on TV, the channel’s rating immediately goes up, while the rating drops a classical music performance. This has become a justification for TV managers; they show poor-quality, even hooligan-like programs, explaining that the struggle for high ratings requires this of them. 

If we’re going to be guided by this system of ratings, then I couldn’t care less about ratings. There’s a good idea heard in one of the performances played by Khoren Abrahamyan: “The minority, and not the majority, is right”. I’m in favor of a minority that is civilized, worldly, and able to analyze.

Finally, an experimental channel can be developed and all the “garbage” (tasteless music and soap operas) can be collected there. You probably remember that at one time ALM TV played this role, which, by the way, was able to last a little big longer, would’ve been considered a regular channel. And now CDs are already dying and the period of downloads is beginning. 

Now people decide themselves what to watch. Going to my friends’ homes often, I see that they and their children mainly watch the Discovery Channel. I’m sure that after watching the professional filming of this channel no one will turn on the program 32 Atam (“32 Teeth,” an Armenian comedy show), since they won’t derive any enjoyment from it. Finally, even comedy shows have to have a unique message and not be built only on mocking others. And we with our TV comedy shows are mocking ourselves and getting pleasure out of it to boot. This is probably a display of Armenian masochism. 

For example, if you watch our soap operas, you won’t find a single happy family. And you won’t find a woman who is happy: all are miserable beings who are subject to violence and cry in the kitchen, whose husbands come home and pick fights. In other words, our “heros” are unshaven brusque men and frightened women. And these heros enter people’s homes every day — especially in the villages, where there’s nothing to do other than watch television. And television begins every day to “wash our brains”.

I think, the problem is that many television managers have nothing to do with television.

Arthur Ispirian
Musician, Singer

School: high school named after Yeghishe Charents
Education: Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, Department of Energy
Favorite Film: A difficult question; the answer would take too long
Favorite Music: The most difficult question… Being in Yerevan, I would say, of course, the music of Artemi Ayvazyan.
Favorite Sport: I generally don’t like sports, and every day at 8 am my friends and I go to the Hrazdan gorge, where fortunately there’s a small space free from all the restaurants. We run, train, and play badminton there. I invite everyone to join us…
Favorite Expression: “Hello, I’m Armenian”

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

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