January 20th marks the last broadcast day of ALM TV. An estimated 7,000 supporters turned up in the Armenian capital the day before the TV company’s forced closure, to hear Tigran Karapetian issue his list of demands of the government.
Karapetian set up ALM about a decade ago, after making a fortune in Russia. His populist appeal and folksy demeanor quickly earned the TV channel a large viewership among working-class people, ethnic minorities and rural residents.
Over the years of its existence, the TV company was much criticized and its name become synonymous of low-quality TV content. Frequent calls were voiced to shut it down.
ALM TV lost its broadcast license in December in a competition held by the National Commission of TV and Radio (NCTR). Also in December, the regulatory body refused to grant a digital frequency to A1+, the country’s leading independent TV station that was forced off the air in 2002. It also refused to renew the license of GALA, another independent broadcaster based in Gyumri, which expires in 2015.
This and other tenders held late last year stemmed from Armenia’s ongoing transition to mandatory broadcasting. Armenian media associations and opposition groups say that the administration of President Serzh Sarkisian is using the digitalization process to maintain and even tighten its grip on the political news coverage of just about every Armenian broadcaster. The NCTR denies this.
Karapetian, who leads a small political party, made little direct mention of ALM’s dilemma as he addressed the rally gathered in support of his closing-down TV. Instead, he issued a long list of mainly socioeconomic demands to Armenian authorities. He presented an ultimatum to the Armenian authorities, calling for the immediate release of the political prisoners, restoring justice, stopping emigration, lowering utility tariffs, preventing inflation, limiting interest rates for loans to 7%, ensure adequate wages, increasing pensions, etc.
Karapetian, who has in the past been careful not to personally attack Armenia’s current and previous presidents in his daily televised monologues aired by ALM on a virtually daily basis, this time threatened to hold another rally and demand the resignation of current government on February 28th, if his demands are not met.
With as many supporters at the rally, as the main opposition force Armenian National Movement often attracts, ALM owner Tigran Karapetian sounded surprisingly serious too…
Based on RFE/RL report.