By Karine Kalantarian
A long-awaited tender for several air frequencies which many hoped will allow Armenia’s leading independent television to return to the air has again been cancelled at the request of several pro-government bidders.
The A1+ channel had already lost any chance of covering the February 19 presidential elections. The latest development means that it may not be able to resume broadcasts even before the parliamentary elections due in May.
The bidding, scheduled for this Friday, was indefinitely postponed on Thursday after an injunction issued by Armenia’s Court of Economic Arbitration. The move followed a lawsuit filed against the National Commission for Television and Radio by five operating channels whose frequencies were put on the tender in accordance with Armenia’s law on broadcasting. The channels, which are owned by government-connected individuals, went to court after the commission refused to allow them to amend their bids submitted last October.
The chairman of the body regulating broadcasting, Grigor Amalian, told RFE/RL that the bidding can not resume until a court verdict.
The contest was already delayed last November over a court dispute between Amalian’s commission and another independent TV station, Noyan Tapan, that centered on a minor technicality. Noyan Tapan eventually agreed to follow bidding rules set by the body.
President Robert Kocharian, widely blamed for the controversial closure of A1+ last April, reportedly promised Western officials that the channel will have an opportunity to resume its work before this year’s elections. All other major television stations of Armenia now support his reelection with a corresponding coverage of the election campaign.
The A1+ shutdown was mentioned in a report on the state of press freedom across Europe submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe this week. The document referred to A1+ as Armenia’s “most respected private channel.”