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By Nane Atshemian
Armenia’s leading television stations have pledged to stop effectively flouting a legal ban on the promotion of alcoholic beverages on the air, the head of a state body regulating TV and radio broadcasts said on Friday.

Grigor Amalian, chairman of the National Commission on Television and Radio, said the chief executives of over a dozen TV channels assured him that they will end all forms of “hidden” alcohol advertising starting from June 1.

“There is both good will on the part of TV companies and growing complaints from the public,” he said. “We agreed that anything resembling and referring to vodka will not be used in TV commercials anymore.”

An Armenian law enacted three years ago prohibits broadcasters from advertising all liquors other than cognac. The ban has primarily targeted vodka, the most popular alcoholic drink in the country.

However, TV channels routinely circumvent this restriction by promoting well-known and mostly foreign vodka brands without any direct reference to alcohol. Amalian said the practice is technically not illicit. He complained that even if they break the law they will face a maximum fine of 500,000 drams ($1,100).

“The existing fines are rather symbolic,” Amalian said. He could not say what his commission would do if the TV companies fail to honor their pledge.

Russian and Ukrainian manufacturers of vodka also heavily sponsor highly popular broadcasts of European football games by Armenia’s state television and private networks. It is not clear if the agreement announced by Amalian will affect the sponsorship.
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