YEREVAN -- The owner of Armenia's leading independent television channel before it was controversially taken off the air eight years ago says the channel is very unlikely to win a new license and resume broadcasts in the near future, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
The National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH) will formally announce on July 20 the beginning of tenders for virtually all broadcasting frequencies available in the country.
Authorities suspended the competitive licensing process two years ago, citing the need to expedite the country's transition to mandatory digital broadcasting by 2013.
Mesrop Movsesian, the owner and executive director of A1+, reaffirmed the once-popular TV channel's intention to contest at least one of the tenders administered by the HRAH. But he was pessimistic about the fairness and objectivity of the bidding process.
"As always, there will only be play-acting and imitation of a contest," Movsesian told RFE/RL. "The winner will be not the best project but the will of a single person."
Movsesian was far more optimistic three months ago about the station’s chances of returning to the airwaves, saying that authorities will finally bow to international pressure. "Reluctantly, they will give us a frequency," he predicted in April.
The change in his view may result from the recent passage of highly controversial amendments to a law on television and radio meant to regulate the digitalization process.
The government-drafted amendments sparked a storm of criticism from Armenian media associations. They say the legislation will enable the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian to retain its strong influence on the news coverage of virtually all Armenian broadcasters.
The United States, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have also expressed concern.
HRAH Chairman Grigor Amalian told RFE/RL on July 15 that possible changes will not affect "procedures related to the unfolding contests." He said "there will be no new requirements that will seriously affect competition factors in the tenders that have been announced," he said.