The private multiplexor has not appeared so far

The National Commission on TV and radio announced the organized by it second tender for the licensing of the operation of the private multiplexor as failed. The first tender organized a year ago had the same fate. This means that the public network of digital broadcasting, i.e. public multiplexor will still have the monopoly and will dictate its conditions in the field.

This problem is especially challenging for more than ten TV companies operating in the provinces, which continue operating in analogue mode. We should remind that currently in each province in Armenia (except for Vayots Dzor, where there is no local TV company) only one TV company has a license for digital broadcasting and is included in the public multiplexor. The “Law on making changes and amendments in the RA “Law on TV and radio” adopted on December 18, 2015 gave chance to other TV companies operating in the same provinces to continue analogue broadcasting until the private multiplexor appears.

In October 2016, the analogue broadcasting in Armenia was shut down, and more than 10 local TV companies operating in the provinces started losing their audience and advertising clients very quickly. As a way out, they considered formation of a private multiplexor, however during the defined period (from May 2 to August 2 of this year) no application to the NCTR and failure of the tender dispersed these hopes as well.

The fact that the state puts these ten TV companies in a desperate situation has been voiced many times by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression and partner organizations – Yerevan Press Club and Media Initiatives Center. On August 8, these three organizations again made a statement expressing their concerns about created situation. The document states, that the terms of formation and licensing of a private multiplexor stipulated by the RA “Law on TV and Radio” are inconsistent with the current requirements for the development of this field, challenges available in that field, nor are they attractive from the entrepreneurship perspective. “In particular, exception of forming small and medium enterprises here is unacceptable. For example, the legislative provision, according to which the private multiplexor should cover the whole territory of Armenia, and no multiplexor is stipulated which has community or province coverage, does not promise ay good prospects for this field”, says the statement.

The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Yerevan Press Club and Media Initiatives Center jointly developed and submitted to the parliament a package of bills, which envisages making changes and amendments in the RA “Law on TV and Radio” and in other related laws. In particular, it is recommended that under conditions of digital broadcasting via applying more liberal approaches to ensure entry of private multiplexors into the market, as well as to make precise the status of TV companies operating in the provinces which continue operating in analogue mode.

In fact, these recommendations should have been a way out for the local TV companies. However, the bills submitted to the National Assembly were never circulated. Therefore, the media organizations demand from the National Assembly to reflect on the problems of broadcasting and to initiate legislative solutions for them via holding public discussions on alternative ideas and circulating the drafts submitted to the parliament. They demand from the NCTR to review the adopted so far principles and approaches for the regulation of the field, and to take active steps to solve the problems related to the reform of the law on broadcasting and the many problems that arise.

Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression