On March 27 the National Commission on Television and Radio announced the results of the competition for the license to broadcast on the Yerevan frequencies FM 106 and FM 103.5, the 29th UHF of Echmiadzin, the 10th VHF of Yerevan and a package of UHFs in a number of Armenian cities (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 16-22, 2002).
All the three companies that had no rivals from the very start were successful in the competition. Thus, “Ardzagank” radio station will go on broadcasting on FM 103.5, “Echmiadzin” TV company will remain on 29th UHF, while the 10th VHF in Yerevan and a package of UHFs will from now on be occupied by “Almholding”.
The issue of FM 106, contested by the current “owner” of the frequency, “Tospa” radio station, and “Hamanvag” company, proved to be harder to solve. By the decision of the National Commission, the tender for this frequency was nullified, since the broadcasting concepts proposed by the applicants did not meet the requirements put forth. So far, until a new competition for FM 106 is announced, “Tospa” radio station will remain on it.
On March 28, the TV companies applying for the UHFs in Yerevan (21st, 35th, 37th and 44th) presented their broadcasting proposals to the National Commission on Television and Radio.
The question of who will take the 37th frequency is a subject of the close attention of press. A number of media, political and public figures, representatives of journalistic community voice serious concern over the possibility of one of the oldest independent broadcasters of Armenia, “A1+” TV company, stopping its broadcasts. The fear that its competitors, the companies “Sharm” and “Dauphin TV”, may be more preferable to the authorities is often expressed.
The situation with “A1+” was also commented on by the RA President Robert Kocharian in his conversation with journalists. According to the President, the RA Law “On Television and Radio” stipulates sufficient guarantees for an impartial and transparent competition. Robert Kocharian did not conceal his liking of “A1+” news but he stressed this did not mean the TV company must be beyond competition. Mr. Kocharian denied the interest of the President’s Office in granting the frequency to this or that company, and named the tumult raised “a blackmail attempt” and “a method to exert pressure on the independent Commission”. This opinion is shared by the Chairman of the National Commission on Television and Radio Grigor Amalian. “The Commission should not be required to base its decision on the fact of “A1+” being in opposition, as this will mean partiality to other applicants”, he stated to Radio Liberty.
The turbulent debates did not leave out the competitor of “A1+”, “Sharm” company, which repeatedly declared its non-involvement in politics and voiced a demand not to “entangle ‘Sharm’ in political games”.
Meanwhile, some media also raise alarm about the 35th frequency, contested by ”Noyan Tapan”, “Shoghakat” and “Yan TV” companies. Thus, in the opinion of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily, the participation of “Shoghakat”, patroned by Holy Echmiadzin (the Catholicosate of the Armenian Apostolic Church) also gives grounds to believe that the results of the competition are pre-decided.
Another TV channel, “Avetis”, patroned this time by the Armenian Evangelical Church, competes with “Shark” TV company (similar to “Sharm” in its show business involvement) for the 44th frequency. Apparently, only the unrivaled applicant for the 21st frequency, “Hayrenik TV”, can sit back and relax.
The competition results for these frequencies will be announced on April 2.