YEREVAN PRESS CLUB WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

JANUARY 28 - FEBRUARY 3, 2005

HIGHLIGHTS:

STATEMENT OF YEREVAN PRESS CLUB, JOURNALISTS UNION OF ARMENIA, INTERNEWS
ARMENIA PUBLIC ORGANIZATION AND COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

JUBILEE "PRESS CLUB" SHOW

FINE ON "HAYRENIK TV" CAUSES INDIGNATION

IN WHOSE WAY ARE THE NEWSPAPER STALLS?

COMMERCIALS ARE WATCHED, BUT ARE PERCEIVED TO BE IRRITATING


STATEMENT OF YEREVAN PRESS CLUB, JOURNALISTS UNION OF ARMENIA, INTERNEWS
ARMENIA PUBLIC ORGANIZATION AND COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

By a decree of the RA President of January 20, 2005 a competition was
announced to fill in the vacancies in the Council of Public Television and
Radio Company of Armenia. February 1 was the deadline for the application
submission. We did not make a statement during the application process not
to interfere with it. Presently we think it necessary to reinstate our
stance on the mechanism of broadcasting regulatory bodies formation.

We state that the RA Law "On Television and Radio" and the practice of its
implementation, in particular the present competition, does not correspond
to Armenia's commitment to the Council of Europe about the transformation of
state broadcasting into public and to international standards.

Amendments to the Law "On Television and Radio", adopted on December 3,
2003, according to which the vacancies in the Council of Public TV and Radio
Company (as well as in the National Commission on Television and Radio) are
filled by a competition, are allegedly stemming from the CoE experts'
recommendations. Yet, even at that time, having compared the proposals of
the experts and the amendments made, we noted that the latter ones do not in
any way comply with the essence and purpose of the recommendations to ensure
the greatest transparency of regulatory bodies formation. In particular, the
Law does not stipulate the procedure for forming the competition commission,
leaving it completely at the discretion of the President of the republic. If
previously the head of the state directly appointed the members of the
Council, he now appoints them out of the winners determined by the
commission he had formed.

We qualify the amendments to the Law and the competition announced basing on
them to be an imitation of democratic procedures and will keep insisting on
the need for real reforms.

Yerevan Press Club
Journalists Union of Armenia
Internews Armenia public organization
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression
February 3, 2005

JUBILEE "PRESS CLUB" SHOW

On January 31 on the evening air of the Second Armenian TV Channel the
tenth, jubilee program of "Press Club" cycle was issued. The cycle is
organized by Yerevan Press Club under a homonymous project, supported by the
OSI Network Media Program.

The subject for the discussion by heads and representatives of the leading
Armenian media was the press response to Resolution 1416 (2005) of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "Conflict over
Nagorno-Karabakh dealt with by the OSCE Minsk Conference". The document was
adopted at the PACE session of January 25 basing on the report on
Mountainous Karabagh, prepared by PACE rapporteur David Atkinson. As the
program participants predicted, Karabagh conflict will remain at the focus
of Armenian media attention this week, too, particularly in the context of
the visit of international fact-finding mission to the territories,
controlled by Armenian forces. The two other central subjects for media, as
the "Press Club" participants supposed, can be the possible return of
opposition factions to the Parliament as well as the circumstances of arrest
of an Armenian MP in United Arab Emirates.

FINE ON "HAYRENIK TV" CAUSES INDIGNATION

The decision of the National Commission on Television and Radio of January
18 to penalize "Hayrenik TV" for rebroadcasting the programs of French
"Mezzo" channel and unauthorized demonstration of films (see details in YPC
Weekly Newsletter, January 14-20, 2005) caused much response in the press.
("Hayrenik TV", broadcasting since 2001, is the only channel in Armenia
intended for children and essentially non-commercial. The owner of the TV
company is a well-known entrepreneur Hrant Vardanian, the President of
"Grand Holding" company.)

"Ayb-Feh" weekly (January 21-27, 2005) was surprised that the NCTR Chairman
Grigor Amalian "has just noticed" "Mezzo" on the air of "Hayrenik TV", while
the rebroadcasts are made for the third year already. "During the broadcast
licensing competition in 2002 the same Amalian, answering a journalist's
question, said confidently, that "Hayrenik" had no problems to rebroadcast
"Mezzo"","Ayb-Feh" reminds and stresses that "Hayrenik" continues the
rebroadcasts of the French channel to this day.

"Iravunk" newspaper (January 25-27, 2005) referring to "certain sources"
supposed that the "strictness" of NCTR Chairman is not totally without
context, "since he is somewhat related to film licensing and the license for
demonstration of one film costs over 100 USD, which is quite a burden for
the children TV channel", which is "Hayrenik TV".

In its issue of January 29 "Azg" daily reported the response of the head of
the National Commission to article "Who Does the NCTR Head Grigor Amalian
Fight With and What For?" published by the daily on January 28. Grigor
Amalian reminded the newspaper of the biblical commandment "Thou Shalt Not
Steal".

This response gave rise to new comments. On February 1 "Novoye Vremya"
newspaper in an editorial comment to the article by Arman Vaneskeghian, the
press-secretary of "Grand Holding", asked: "How proper is it to punish
"Hayrenik TV" for "Mezzo", considering our not very rich cultural life
(...). What is on the other side of balance? Is the Commission as consistent
and strict to other Armenian channels where there is a plenty of shallow
films and programs - are they all licensed, is all this production acquired
legally and demonstrated or re-broadcast by international rules? Has no one
"stolen" anything? Besides, there are ten commandments, and "thou shalt not
steal" is only one of them. There are also others, say, the worldly
commandment "thou shalt make no damage..." Make no damage to thousands of
lovers of serious musical programs that can hardly be found on any other
channel." In the article itself the press-secretary of "Grand Holding"
notes: "I was sure that French "Mezzo" channel itself demanded the National
Commission on Television and Radio to stop its unauthorized rebroadcasts.
(...) Imagine the surprise when it turned out that the French had nothing to
do with this and had made no protest." Arman Vaneskeghian also reminded that
"Grand Holding" allocated to "Hayrenik TV" "almost two million USD
throughout its existence, spent to create quality and non-violent programs,
the goal of which is the education of future generation".

"Haikakan Zhamanak" daily (February 1, 2005) voiced a number of questions
too: "Is NCTR monitoring all other TV companies to determine violations of
the law, is the duration of lotteries, commercials corresponds to the limits
stipulated by the law, is the volume of the self-produced programs compliant
with the legal provisions, is..? In response it these questions Amalian
always says that the technical capacities of the Commission are restricted
and it is impossible to be checking everything thoroughly."

The opinion of the newspapers above is shared by "Golos Armenii" newspaper
(February 1, 2005): "The problem of "Mezzo" did not escape the attention of
NCTR. But, say, the lottery advertising, often exceeding the time limits
stipulated by the law, does not worry the Commission. Other, much more
outrageous and scandalous facts of incompliance of some Armenian channels
with not simply some clauses of the law, but to it in general, can be
quoted. And of course, examples of the passive behavior of Commission in
terms of revealing such offences can be quoted as well."

"Aravot" daily (February 2, 2005) thinks it is difficult to determine who is
right in the conflict of NCTR and "Hayrenik TV" and advises the owner of the
latter to file a suit with the court. At the same time the newspaper
expresses its amazement at the fact that "Hayrenik TV" has more supporters
than "A1+" and "Noyan Tapan" had when deprived of air by the same
Commission: "Currently the National Commission on Television and Radio is
accused of lack of state thinking even by those media who used to stand for
it might and main." Besides, in the opinion of "Aravot", "the extreme
indignation due to penalizing "Hayrenik TV" is also explained by the fact
that no one in Armenia expect NCTR to pass a decision, corresponding to the
law". This is why, the newspaper stresses, also in the case of "Hayrenik"
many people refuse to see it as a purely legal problem: "They are trying to
find other reasons for such unusual actions of NCTR - such as backstage
fight against the owner of "Hayrenik" TV company, etc. And frankly speaking,
this version seems to be the closest to reality."

IN WHOSE WAY ARE THE NEWSPAPER STALLS?

Lately from Yerevan streets newspaper stalls started to disappear. There are
serious fears that the trend is becoming steady, and will thus restrict the
access of the citizens to information. This problem was raised by the
Chairman of "Armenian Press" Association of Editors-Publishers Vardan
Aloyan.

In the permanent section "HotLine" of "Golos Armenii" newspaper on February
1 Vardan Aloyan addressed its guest, Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharian with
the following question: "There is an impression that the municipality has
recently announced a war to newspaper stalls. The stalls by "Tashir"
Department Store and Arabkir market have already been demolished. The other
day with no prior notification the specialized newspaper stall of
"Komsomolskaya Pravda" at the crossroads of Terian and Isahakain was
demolished, the demolition of "Haymamul" newspaper stall at the beginning of
Mashtots avenue is a questions of a couple of days. Apparently, the
municipality is unable to suppress the wish of our oligarchs to gain these
nice pieces of Yerevan land. But then why doesn't the city administration
provide other places on equally animated routes to move the stalls there?
Because every newspaper stall demolished is another attack on media
accessibility for people."

"This issue is presently on the agenda of city authorities. Within the
coming three months the issue of newspaper stalls will be re-considered for
an appropriate decision to be made. The newspaper stalls will be retained,
and so will be their main purpose - the sale of newspapers and magazines",
the head of the Yerevan administration assured.

It should be noted that still back in 2001 the media heads demanded that the
government stop the privatization of "Haymamul" Press Dissemination Agency.
The protest was caused in particular by the governmental resolution of
November 15, 2001 on the privatization of over 300 newspaper stalls owned by
"Haymamul". The privilege here was given to the newspaper vendors
themselves. One of the mandatory terms of the privatization was retaining
the direct function of the newspaper stalls during five years (even in the
case of a change of owner). In the opinion of media and experts, this term
was not sufficient to guarantee that the sale of the publications will not
reduce. The latest events come to confirm the validity of journalistic
fears.

The "list" of the newspaper stalls that disappeared from Yerevan streets
mentioned above has now increased by another one: in the morning of January
25 a stall located in the vicinity of Medical University went on fire.
Whether this was arson, as the newspaper vendor Samvel Gasparian maintains,
is for the investigation to determine. Meanwhile the residents of Yerevan
have lost another opportunity to buy newspapers at one of the animated
places of the capital.

COMMERCIALS ARE WATCHED, BUT ARE PERCEIVED TO BE IRRITATING

Internews Armenia public organization has published the findings of the TV
audience survey in three major cities of Armenia - Yerevan, Gyumri and
Vanadzor. The research was administered by US "InterMedia" organization in
December 2004 by interviewing 500 respondents aged over 15 in each of the
cities above.

According to the survey findings, the TV ownership rates among the
respondents were highest in Vanadzor and Yerevan - 97% for each city. 87% of
respondents in Yerevan, 77% in Gyumri, 70% in Vanadzor watch TV every day.
Most respondents in all three cities had seen advertisements on TV
"yesterday" (72% - in Yerevan), yet the attributes most commonly applied to
TV advertisements are "irritating" and "boring". The highest number of
available channels is in Yerevan: 61% respondents can receive at least 14 TV
channels. The opportunities in Gyumri and Vanadzor are somewhat restricted:
the majority of the respondents can receive less than 14 TV channels.

In all three cities peak TV viewing times are between 20.00 and 23.00.
Respondents under 30, in all three cities, tend to watch in higher numbers
in the afternoon, from 14.00 until 17.00 or 18.00 and respondents over 30 -
from the morning until about 13.00, except in Gyumri. In all three cities
the respondents, particularly those, aged under 30, consider the
entertainment programs to be the most important for them. This opinion is
shared by 80% in Vanadzor, 66% - in Yerevan, 47% - in Gyumri.

The audience survey for specific TV channels showed that Gyumri viewers
commonly characterize the local "Tsayg" and "Shant" as "independent" and
"objective". 44% of respondents in Vanadzor qualified the local "Lori" TV
company as "amateurish", and 41% thought it was "engaging". Another Vanadzor
TV company "Interkap" was most frequently named "trustworthy" or "engaging".

In the opinion of respondents in all three cities, the First Channel of the
Public Television of Armenia is one of the two TV channels for news
coverage. The other leaders, the news programs of which are most popular,
are "Armenia" in Yerevan, "Shant" in Gyumri and ORT (Russia) in Vanadzor.

By the survey findings, the PTA First Channel is the most popular station in
Gyumri and Vanadzor and rates a close second to "Armenia" in Yerevan.
Throughout the week the programs of PTA First Channel are watched by 86.8%
of audience in Yerevan, 82.8% - in Gyumri and 93.3% - in Vanadzor. Other top
stations in terms of weekly reach are "Armenia" and RTR (Russia) in Yerevan,
"Shant" and Second Armenian TV Channel in Gyumri, ORT and Second Armenian TV
Channel in Vanadzor.


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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN
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Yerevan Press Club
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