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By Anna Saghabalian
Having been repeatedly denied a new broadcasting license, the owner and editorial staff of Armenia’s main independent television controversially pulled off the air nearly three years ago are looking to switch to the radio waves.

Mesrop Movsesian of the once popular A1+ channel announced on Thursday that he has set up a new company that will participate in a tender for two FM radio frequencies later this month. He said that even though the company called MS Explorer is a separate entity it would largely be staffed with A1+ journalists whose news reports have continued to appear on the TV station’s web site since its de facto closure in April 2002.

The bidding for the radio frequencies is set for December 28. The winners are expected to be announced three days later. MS Explorer’s competitors are two local firms seeking to retransmit broadcasts of Russian music stations.

Movsesian was downbeat about his chances of success, indicating that the Armenian authorities are unlikely to ease their tight grip on electronic media.

The closure of A1+, the only national channel critical of President Robert Kocharian, was condemned as politically motivated by Armenian and international media watchdogs, the United States and the Council of Europe. The latter has repeatedly urged the Armenian government to allow the channel back on air.

A1+ has since taken part in about a dozen frequency tenders and lost all of them. All members of a state commission handling those tenders are appointed by Kocharian.

(Photolur photo: Mesrop Movsesian.)
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