The TV and Radio commission is violating the law: this year no tender has been announced for the private multiplexor, i.e. for the licensing of the operation of digital broadcasting network.
Since 2015, the RA Law on TV and Radio obliges to announce the first tender for the licensing of the operation of the private multiplexor by May 1, 2016: Afterwards, if the tender fails or if there is no winner, one year after its announcement, it is required that a new tender is announced. During the 2 years following the adoption of the law, on April 30 and May 2 of 2016 and 2017 respectively, tenders for the licensing of the private multiplexor were organized, which were announced as failed based on no application being submitted during the defined period.
This year, however, although at the beginning of May the defined period was over, the TVRC has not announced any tender, while ignoring the requirement of the law. In an interview with the CPFE, Davit Margaryan, head of the legal and licensing department of the commission, stated that as of June 6 there was no decision to announce a tender. Whereas, not one year, but 13 months have passed since the previous failed tender.
This means that public network of digital broadcasting, i.e. public multiplexor will still maintain its monopoly position and will dictate its terms and conditions in the field.
After the changes made in the RA Law on TV and Radio in 2010, only the public multiplex was created in the country, which provides service to TV companies having a license for digital broadcasting, including only one TV-channel from each province. And dozens of other local TV companies were left out of the digitizing process, while losing their audience and advertising clients with every passing day. With another change made in 2015, these latter can conduct analogue broadcasting until a private multiplexor turns up. However, it is the third year that it is not being established. Why? According to the current law, the private multiplexor must do the multiplex through its own electronic communication network. Its coverage should not be smaller than the coverage of the digital network of the RA public broadcasting. i.e. the coverage of the whole country. Moreover, the components of the private multiplexor network (including the radio-stations, cables, broadcasting equipment) must belong to the owner, and any rental is excluded. Besides, the RA “Law on State dues” defines AMD100mln for the operation of the private multiplexor. It is clear that these conditions are not attractive in terms of the business, and have no perspective from the viewpoint of developing the field of broadcasting.
The Committee to Protect the Freedom of Expression, Yerevan Press Club and the Center for Media Initiatives have referred to these problems many times. In particular, it is unacceptable to exclude the establishment of small and medium enterprises: the fact that the law does not stipulate any multiplexor having community level or province level coverage, does not promise any good future to the field. During various periods, the three news organizations have proposed a number of packages of legislative changes; however, unfortunately they have been ignored so far.
Committee to Protect the Freedom of Expression