By Ruben Meloyan
Acting on an appeal brought by a private radio station, Armenia’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional a legal provision that gives the government a virtually unrestricted power to set fees for use of broadcasting frequencies.
The Radio Hay station filed the appeal after refusing to pay 8.4 million drams ($27,000) demanded by a broadcasting division of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Most of the other Yerevan-based FM stations are charged only 900,000 drams a year.
Radio Hay says the demanded fee is exorbitant even considering the fact that its network covers a much bigger territory of Armenia than those of other broadcasters. Its says the government, citing Article 53 of Armenia’s law on television and radio, has refused to provide any explanation for the methodology used for calculating the sum.
The high court ruled that the clause runs counter to Armenia’s constitution and must be amended by December 1 in a way that would set a clear mechanism for the calculation of broadcasting fees. It said at the same time that the government has a legal right to charge local broadcasters for using frequencies distributed by the National Commission on Television and Radio on a supposedly competitive basis.