A1+, an independent Armenian television station, has been given daily airtime on another, government-friendly channel to resume news broadcasting more than ten years after being controversially taken off the air.
The station’s owner, Mesrop Movsesian, and a top executive of the ArmNews network announced a surprise agreement to that effect at a joint news conference in Yerevan on Tuesday. They said that starting from next Monday ArmNews will air every evening 20-minute news bulletins produced by A1+.
“The news programs will be fully prepared by the A1+ TV company, and ArmNews will not interfere in the editorial policy of those programs,” said Artak Aleksanian, the ArmNews executive producer. “The agreement is signed for one year and can be extended by mutual consent of the parties.”
A1+ was Armenia’s leading independent broadcaster until losing its license in April 2012 in a highly disputed tender administered by the presidentially appointed National Commission on Television and Radio (HRAH). The HRAH decision was widely attributed to its hard-hitting coverage of the government. None of the other Yerevan-based private channels have regularly aired criticism of government policies since then.
A1+ has tried unsuccessfully to win another broadcasting frequency in over a dozen tenders held by the HRAH. The most recent of those contests took place in late 2010 and pitted A1+ against ArmNews. The HRAH predictably ruled in the latter’s favor.
ArmNews is one of several TV stations that are reputedly controlled by Mikael Minasian, an influential son-in-law of President Serzh Sarkisian.
Movsesian, whose company has specialized in online news reporting and video production since 2002, insisted that he does not expect any censorship of his new programs. He also ruled out any changes in A1+’s editorial policy as a result of the “business deal” with ArmNews.
“Of course, there is concern because there will be political struggle and problems will arise,” he said. “But I am convinced that this can be prevented in a civilized relationship.”
Movsesian further said that despite the deal A1+ will not drop a lawsuit filed last year against the HRAH’s decision to give the 2011 tender to ArmNews.