On September 12, the National Assembly of Armenia passed in the first hearing the Draft Law “On amendments to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” that had been considered previously. The Draft Law was introduced by the NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues on the basis of the suggestions made by independent TV and radio companies of the country (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, August 24-31, 2001). The document has 23 articles with amendments to the acting broadcast law – a fact that proves the imperfection of this law, adopted on October 9 last year. The most significant changes include the abolition of the requirement to license the TV and radio production; assigning privileges to the acting TV and radio companies in the competition for the use of the same frequencies, etc. Yet, two important suggestions of the independent broadcasters were not included into the Draft Law – that on the procedure of formation and membership of the National Commission on Television and Radio (the one that regulates the private broadcasting) as well as the suggestion to introduce a gradual and a more lenient (with a ten-year schedule) mode for increasing the share of programming in Armenian language. Meanwhile, as the heads of the private TV and radio companies think, the stipulation of the Law “On Television and Radio”, according to which, till year 2005, 55% of broadcast volume (including films and cartoons) must be in the national language is a convenient tool to exercise pressure on the unwanted companies.
On September 12, the National Assembly adopted two more draft laws on amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” in the second hearing.
One of the draft laws envisages amendments to some of the statutes of the law that were recognized by the RA Constitutional Court on January 11, 2001 to be contradictory to the Constitution. They, in particular, refer to the relations of the Council of Public Television and Radio (a body that regulates the public broadcasting) and the National Commission on TV and Radio with the RA Government and Parliament (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 3-9, 2001).
The other document introduces changes to the statutes of the law that relate to the activities of the Public Radio and Public Television. In particular, the draft law specifies the procedure of preparation and broadcasting of official announcements, gives the definition of the “official announcement” concept, stipulates a regular coverage of the activities of the RA NA in “Parliamentary Hour” TV program as well as annuls the sentence of Article 28 saying that the public television and radio must be mostly funded by the state budget.