The Expert Working Group set up by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression which includes representatives of Yerevan Press Club and Media Initiatives Centre has prepared a new draft law on amending the RA Law on Television and Radio the main purpose of which is to liberalize the sphere of private multiplexers and to rule out monopoly or dominant market position in the sphere of broadcasting.
The RA Law on Television and Radio is one of the most frequently amended (26 times) legal acts since its adoption (9 October 2000). However, not all amendments have improved the law, and many of them have even produced negative results and impact.
In this regard, the amendments adopted on 18 December 2015 with a view to regulating the introduction and activities of the private multiplexer in the sphere of broadcasting are not an exception. This change was necessitated by the general process of transition from analog to digital transmission in Armenia in the result of which a new operator will emerge in the field – the private multiplexer – which, according to Article 55.1 Para 2 of that Law, will provide digital transmission covering the entire territory of Armenia through its own infrastructure, independently from the existing public digital network. However, the CPFE Working Group believes that these amendments will not enable progress. Moreover, they will set an obstacle to the establishment of a private multiplexer and will not enable the emergence of small and medium enterprises in this sphere, thus establishing just another monopoly.
The experts who have elaborated the new draft law think that the requirement on creating a digital transmission network with the size of the entire territory of Armenia is not technically necessitated. This provision enables only big enterprises, not small and medium enterprises, to become a multiplexer. Meanwhile, such networks could be set up for a city, a region, or even a community, creating small and medium enterprises.
The Expert Working Group also has concerns about the provision according to which the National Television and Radio Commission holds a competition and issues license to TV companies to include them in a private multiplex.
Having the existing analog broadcasters go through another competition is unacceptable. The new draft law suggests an interim solution, namely the National Commission could replace the license of analog broadcasters without a competition with a digital transmission license valid through 2020, which would enable these TV companies to be included in the private multiplex. And the competition could be announced only for the companies that are just being established.
The new draft law also addresses the amendments adopted on 25 May 2016, suggesting to void Article 52 Para 1.1 which prohibits retransmission by cable television companies of terrestrial programs of the TV companies based in Armenia and implementing terrestrial transmission, which contain campaign content in the form of news, editorial, documentary, author’s or other programs or in any other form on the election (referendum) voting day or the day preceding it. This is an illogical requirement since nobody has the right to publish campaign content on the election (referendum) voting day or the day preceding it.
CPFE and the partner journalistic organizations are going to submit the new draft law to the six parliamentary groups and the National Assembly Standing Committee of Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs soon.
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression