By Hrach Melkumian
The Armenian Court of Economic Arbitration ruled on Monday that a state commission regulating broadcasting must accept the Noyan Tapan private television station's bid for an air frequency. The verdict is expected to further delay a crucial tender for several broadcasting frequencies which many hope will lead to the reopening of another, more popular independent channel: A1+.
The bidding was originally scheduled for November 18. It was suspended after Noyan Tapan filed a lawsuit challenging the refusal by the National Commission on Television and Radio to consider its bid.
The commission, appointed by President Robert Kocharian last year, argued that the TV station owned by the eponymous news agency did not specify the frequency it is bidding for. But Noyan Tapan claims that the Armenian law on broadcasting contains no such requirement.
The suspension of the long-awaited contest has dashed A1+'s hopes of returning to the air before the February presidential elections. Its director, Mesrop Movsesian, said last week that his main concern now is to ensure his company's survival.
The verdict by the economic court was criticized by the chairman of the broadcasting commission, Grigor Amalian. But he would not say whether the regulatory body will appeal it at a higher court.
The court ruling will take effect within the next 15 days unless it is overturned by the Court of Appeals. In that case, Amalian's commission will have to comply with it by December 20.
Meanwhile, the Noyan Tapan chief Tigran Harutiunian on Monday again strongly denied allegations that he may have struck a secret deal with the Armenian authorities aimed at preventing A1+ from covering the presidential elections. "We are fighting for our rights, and we too hope to go on air before the elections," he told RFE/RL.
Harutiunian also argued that Noyan Tapan will not be bidding for any of the
frequencies contested by A1+.