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Independent Armenian TV Station Loses Another Frequency Tender

Logo of A1+ TV company, which has been repeatedly denied broadcasting rights since 2002.
Logo of A1+ TV company, which has been repeatedly denied broadcasting rights since 2002.
YEREVAN -- Armenia's embattled A1+ TV company, which has been off the air for almost a decade, has been defeated in another frequency tender administered by the state regulator after allegedly submitting fraudulent documents, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

The results of the process published by the National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAR) showed A1+ trailing the operating TV channel, ArmNews.

A1+, represented by Meltex Ltd., received only two points from the commission compared with 44 points for the company representing ArmNews, a TV station that currently alternates its news programs with half-hourly retransmissions from the pan-European news channel EuroNews.

HRAH head Grigor Amalian and six members of the commission gave a zero grade to the A1+ bid. One commission member gave the company two points. In the end, the commission unanimously voted to recognize ArmNews as the winner.

Amalian said A1+ had submitted a number of fake financial documents bearing the seal of a British-registered company that stopped operating in 2007.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Meltex director Mesrop Movsesian denied presenting any false documentation. He said the company in question has affiliates in different countries, which accounted for the confusion.

A1+ is arguably the sole Armenian TV station critical of the authorities. This is the 13th time it has failed to regain its broadcasting right since losing it in 2002 in a similar licensing competition.

Local and international media watchdogs have repeatedly criticized the Armenian government for keeping A1+ off the air. In June 2008, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights fined the Armenian government over the HRAH's repeated rejection of A1+ applications for a new frequency in what it said constituted a violation of the "freedom of expression" article of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Shortly after that ruling, the Armenian authorities controversially suspended the licensing process, citing the need to expedite the transition to mandatory digital broadcasting. The latest tender for two frequencies is the first to be held after the suspension term expired last summer.

In the second competitive bidding, ALM, a TV company run by a media holding owned by controversial television pundit Tigran Karapetian, the leader of an extra-parliamentary political party, lost to another working TV station, Yerevan.

In all, 18 tenders for digital broadcast licenses have been held this year. Six of the frequencies allow for nationwide broadcasts, nine were confined to Yerevan, and the other three to the provinces.