4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity
In the mid-1990s, private radio and television broadcasting began to develop. However, the regulation of this field began only following the adoption of the Law on Television and Radio (2000) and the formation of the National Committee for Television and Radio on 19 March 2001. Today, in Armenia, there is one Public TV Company and one Public Radio Company. There are more than 40 private broadcasters, 20 Radio companies (9 in Yerevan, 11 in the regions)), and 61 TV companies (23 in Yerevan, 38 in the regions). Unlike the printed press, the advertisement incomes of radio and TV companies are very large. The correlation between the Armenian programmes in television broadcasts (including the Armenian translation of foreign programmes) and foreign ones varies, depending on the TV channel, but averages about 55%-45% (see also chapter 5.3.7).
According to the Law on Television and Radio, the same legal entity may not obtain a broadcasting license for the same geographic location for both radio and television. The same Law also stipulates broadcasters to guarantee a certain proportion of local content – 65% of air time for all broadcasters and no less than two thirds for Public Television.
The process of digitalisation of broadcasting is currently taking place in Armenia. According to amendments to the RA Law on Television and Radio, approved on 20 May 2010, Armenia is to move to digital broadcasting. In connection with this transition, a new competition for frequencies was conducted in July – December 2010. Only 18 TV companies were appointed. The competition was claimed to be unfair by the TV companies that were unsuccessful.
There are press agencies in Armenia that cooperate with CIS member countries and similar world major agencies disseminate everyday information. "Armenpress" is the oldest press agency in Armenia, operating since 1921. Two other agencies that have been formed since 1991 are "Noyan Tapan" and "Arminfo", a private agency. There are also news agencies: "Mediamax", "De Facto", "Arka", "Regnum" and photoagencies: "Photolur" and "Patker".
There are 5 daily newspapers, including "Aravot" (Morning), "Azg" (Nation), "Haykakan jamanak" (Armenian Times), and "Hayots Ashkharh" (Armenian World). All of them are private. The former official newspaper of the Parliament, "Republic of Armenia", has special state status and the publisher is "Hanrapetutyun" (Republic), a closed joint-stock company, with the state as stockholder. The Russian "Respublika Armeniya" is published twice a week and the publisher is again a state company. There are Russian private newspapers "Novoye Vremya" and "Golos Armenii" (published three times per week). Among the political weekly newspapers are the official weekly newspaper of ARD "Erkir" and UCR official newspaper "Iravunq", as well as the private "Ayb-Fe", the founder of which is the "Melteqs" company - the founder of "A1+" TV company.
Since Soviet times, there have been publications of children's and youth periodicals ("Kanch" and "Akhbyur"). After independence, a number of new periodicals emerged - "Khatutik", "Manana", "Lolo", "Urakh Gnatsk" ("Merry Train"). There are also social, political, literary and cultural newspapers - "Yerevani Hamaynapatker", "Noyan Tapan" in English, the newspapers "Grakan tert", "Grqeri Ashkharh", as well as the magazines "Garun", "Nor Dar", "Norq", and "Literaturnaya Armenia". There are also specialist periodicals (comic, scientific, philosophical and so on). The newspaper "Qristonya Hayastan" is published by the church, the monthly newspaper "Ne" is published for women and "Football Plus" serves sports enthusiasts. There are also game publications of a trade nature. Russian commercial and social-political periodicals have a great number of readers in Armenia also.
In 1995, "Aragil" (in English) information electronic agency was established (by Internet). Two information agencies also specialise in the area of the economy - "Arka" and "Mediamax"(in Russian).
In 1991, together with the adoption of the Law on other Means of Press and Mass Media, censorship officially disappeared in Armenia and freedom of the media was declared.
When becoming an EC member, Armenia stated that it would pass a new Law on Mass Media within a year and reorganise the TV national channel into a Public channel, with an independent administrative council management. Both of the plans have been accomplished. In 2000, the Public Television and Public Radio Company were established and, in the same year, the Law on Television and Radio was passed. In 2003, following a number of discussions and decisions of experts (including the experts of Armenia, EC and Article 19 organisation) a new Law on Mass Media was passed, which came into force in February 2004. Compared with the previous Law, this one is more progressive and complies with international standards. The most important part is that the compulsory registration of mass media has disappeared and the principle of legal protection of the mass media was confirmed.
The Law on Freedom of Information was passed in September 2003 and came into force in November 2003. The Law guarantees the transparency and promotion of state and local self-governmental bodies and the transparency and promotion of private company activities that implement public functions, as well as the protection of the right for everyone to be informed, including the legal mechanisms of ensuring the information availability.
Subscriptions to newspapers and periodicals are low, due to the high prices related to expenses for publication and dissemination and a weak market for advertising. The lack of financial investments for the control of media groups and the small salaries of the journalists also hinder progress in this field.
Network (Internet) media was initiated in Armenia in 2000 by the Pan Armenian Network. Today, there are a number of similar newspapers, such as "Antsudarz", "Hetq", "Armenia now" and "Taregir". Parallel to the dissemination of these periodicals, the information from various media also flows to the Internet. There are a number of popular news sites such as "7or", "Panorama.am", "News.am", "Armenia Today", etc. All the radio channels, 55% of the printed media and 26% of TV companies have web pages. In 2002, the state role in information provision disappeared though, until now, the financing of state and non-state media, "Armenpress" agency and "Mir" TV company, is realised by the Ministry. According to the Vice-Minister of Transport and Communications in Armenia, the number of Internet users has dramatically (6 times) increased in Armenia in 2009-2011, and now makes involves one third of the whole population.
The cultural media has a limited circulation and are published in the form of separate publications (e.g. Armenian-English magazine "Hay Arvest") and supplements to newspapers ("Azg", "Golos Armenii"). There are also web pages devoted to Armenian culture and its separate administrations (e.g. http://www.arvest.am, http://icha.armenianculture.am). The radio channel "Vem" has a cultural theme. Previously there was a specific TV channel "Ararat", supported by the Ministry of Culture, that addressed different spheres of art and culture. It does not exist any more. Some of its functions were transferred to another cultural channel "Shoghakat" (supported by the Armenian Apostolic Church). The children's channel "Hayrenik" that was mainly focused on elucidation of culture related topics for children has also stopped broadcasting since the beginning of 2012. As well as having many art, music and spiritual education programmes, Armenians also have access to the Russian "Cultura" TV channel which is very popular in the sphere of culture. In the sphere of literature, electronic periodicals Inqnagir (http://www.inknagir.org/) and Granish (http://www.granish.org/) are well-known in Armenia.
There are no serious debates in the country over EU competition policies.
The Media Diversity Institute Armenian office has conducted several training programmes and has published guidebooks on diversity reporting, which highlights cultural diversity issues among other sensitive issues.
In the sphere of freedom of speech, the situation is better served with printed and electronic media, which do not encounter serious obstacles for their activities, though separate cases of violation of journalists' and citizens' information rights may happen. However, in the case of the broadcasting media, more serious violations such as lack of access to the TV and radio waves for broadcasting may take place. These and other developments on freedom of speech are covered by the Freedom House Armenia 2011 report: http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2011/armenia (Freedom House is an independent watchdog organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world). The violations in the media sphere can be exemplified in the case of A1+ TV channel which has been denied a license for 8 years for political reasons and just recently has got several hours of broadcasting on the Armnews TV channel.