The deadline for applications for a broadcast license on a number of vacant and vacated frequencies has expired. As it has already been reported, the competition on TV and radio broadcast licensing was announced by the National Commission on Television and Radio in February 2002 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 16-22, 2002).
Eight vacant frequencies were introduced at the competitions started on February 16 and 22. The Yerevan frequency FM 106 apart from its current “owner”, “Tospa” radio station (founded in 1996, currently re-broadcasting the Moscow Radio “Hit FM”), was applied for by “Hamanvag” LLC. The situation is the same for the 44th UHF in Yerevan. The applicants are the cultural and religious TV channel “Avetis”, currently occupying this frequency, and “Shark” LLC. “Hamanvag” company is unknown to the professional community. “Shark” studio is more known by production of entertaining and advertising nature.
“Ardzagank” radio station, aired since 1997 in Yerevan (FM 103.5) and “Echmiadzin” TV company, established in 1993 (29th UHF in Echmiadzin) have no competitors. No one, but for the newcomer, “Almholding”, owned by a well-known Armenian entrepreneur Tigran Karapetian, was resolute enough to claim the expensive 10th VHF in Yerevan and a package of UHF in several of Armenian cities.
“Hayrenik TV”, which has been broadcasting since November last year and is owned by another well-known entrepreneur, the head of “Grand Tobacco” company Hrant Vardanian, has no rivals either. One of the explanation to this lack of alternative options is possibly the requirement made by the National Commission to the applicants for the 21st UHF of Yerevan that the broadcaster must give at least 55% of the airtime to the programs for children and adolescents, the very audience “Hairenik TV” targets.
As to the remaining two UHFs in Yerevan, the rivalry for these is much tougher.
Among the applicants for the 35th frequency are “Noyan Tapan” TV company, which stopped its broadcasts on September 14, 2001 due to a dispute between the partners (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 15-21, 2001), “Shoghakat” TV company, founded in late December and supported by Holy Echmiadzin (the Catholicosate of Armenian Apostolic Church), and the newly-born “Yan TV”.
The fate of the 37th frequency, rather its current “holder”, “A1+” TV company causes the great concern of the journalistic community. One of the first independent broadcasters (founded in 1991), this is the only news TV channel working 24 hours a day. “A1+” is also quite severe in its criticism of authorities, whereas its main rival, “Sharm”, is considered to be quite loyal to the government. The third applicant, “Dauphin TV”, was established quite a short while ago, and, as media write, belongs to the owner of Champaign Factory and “The Golden Fish” restaurant Hrair Hakobian, who is on quite friendly terms with the Councilor of the RA President Alexan Haroutiunian.
A number of media, journalistic associations, opposition party activists voice their concern about the possible disappearance of "A1+" from the air. A increasing number of opinions are heard to the effect that the supreme administration of the country, in their anticipation of elections, might attempt to square accounts with the unwanted TV company, actually the only electronic medium in the capital that is open and consistent in its opposition to the authorities.
Who will be entitled to broadcast on these frequencies will become clear in early April. Will the National Commission on Television and Radio be able to retain maximum objectivity and impartiality, as its Chairman promises?