Armenia’s leading independent television station plans to resume broadcasts through the Internet more than eight years after being controversially pulled off the air by the authorities.
Mesrop Movsesian, the owner and director of the A1+ TV channel, said on Tuesday that Armenians will be able to watch its renewed news and other programs live on the Internet by the end of next week.
“We have long been considering launching Internet broadcasts,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “But the poor performance of Internet service providers did not allow us to do that. Now everybody has moved one step forward and we want to try that option.”
Movsesian referred to the improving quality and falling cost of Internet connection in Armenia. That is widely attributed to the abolition in 2006 of the ArmenTel national telephone company’s legal monopoly on all forms of telecommunication. Internet connection in the country was slow and expensive until then.
The end of the ArmenTel monopoly has spawned a number of new and larger service providers and significantly tightened competition in the local Internet market. The number of Armenians connected to the Internet has sharply increased as a result.
Information technology experts estimate that up to one-fifth of the country’s population has now regular access to the service. However, Internet connection enjoyed by many of them is still not fast enough for watching TV programs and other video content.
ArmenTel, which currently provides both wholesale and retail Internet services, boasts about 40,000 subscribers at present. “About 70 percent of them are able to watch video clips on YouTube and other websites without interruptions,” a company spokeswoman, Anush Begloyan, told RFE/RL.
Begloyan could not say just how many Armenians will be able to watch A1+ programs online. “Everything depends on how much a customer is ready to pay for the high-speed Internet service,” she explained.
Movsesian, for his part, was confident that Internet broadcasts will attract more visitors to A1+’s popular news website, A1Plus.am. Thousands of people already visit it on a daily basis, he said. A1+ has for years posted video reports there.
Online news reporting has been the TV station’s principal activity ever since it lost its broadcasting frequency in April 2002. The National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH), a presidentially appointed regulatory body, gave the license to another broadcaster loyal to the government.
A1+, backed by local and international media watchdogs, denounced the decision as a government retribution for its political news coverage critical of then President Robert Kocharian. It has since tried unsuccessfully to win another frequency in over a dozen tenders administered by the HRAH.
The commission claims that those tenders were objective and truly competitive. Virtually all major TV companies that won them rarely air criticism of the authorities and the president of the republic in particular.
The commission plans to resume in July fresh frequency biddings that were controversially suspended by the Armenian government and parliament in 2008. Movsesian said earlier this month that A1+ is already preparing to take part in them.