Armenia’s Controversial ALM TV Closes Down

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.

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16 thoughts on “Armenia’s Controversial ALM TV Closes Down

  1. There are so many broadcast channels available (technically) that it’s quite difficult to understand the reason behind those ‘bids’ to be awarded a frequency. Let everyone who wants a channel have one as long as they can survive in the market.

    1. Well, there are so many broadcast channels available (technically) that it’s quite easy to understand the ONLY reason behind those ‘bids’ to be awarded a frequency. It’s a way to control the media market!

      1. For digital, each frequency can be divided into six channels with reasonable quality at 480i resolution. Or each frequency can have one 1080i/720p high definition and two 480i low resolution, reasonably good broadcasts.

        So in reality there is really no shortage of frequencies. You are right, it’s a matter of controlling the content.

  2. Incidentally, this post made me pay attention to a local news broadcast today.

    It was a good study in attempts to use different media and introduce interactivity to the news. We are having a snow-storm and they first did a poll on Facebook on whether the anchors should be outdoors. Then they solicited snowstorm pictures from the viewers to be posted on their facebook page. They also had live crews at different parts of the viewing area, live feeds from their own web cams. They then used the web cams of the state transportation department to bring a more complete picture of what was going on elsewhere. Then they had cars driving around and feeding live footage.

    It’s quite nice to see the possibilities of 4G mobile internet, smartphone and TV integration.

    1. Fascinating…

      I was in U.S. last year, visited Google, Facebook, etc… and now, less than a year after, I feel so much has changed in the technology sphere, that everything I was told about at those tech-giants is not vaild anymore, because its too old.

      What you told about the usage of Facebook and 4G mobile use in a local news report only reaffirms this feeling I have…

      1. 5-6 inches of snow is a big deal here – will probably be the case until mid-February when people get used to it. Gotta feed the market what they want to see and do it better than the competition.

        1. We could discuss how competition sharpens the media market, but then Observer would point out that that is off-topic for this post on Armenia television…

          1. Armenian Television are having to cope with competition, and it does sharpen competition in the media market too… the problem is, all competition is for provision of best entertainment, not information. Hence, Shant TV, H1 and Armenia TV are fighting a hard battle on soup-opera front and various shows like the Armenian variation of American Idol and Dancing stars, etc.

  3. Observer and any other person living in Armenia, is there no such thing as freedom of speech there? I don’t know much about this television station nor the other ones that have been shut down, along with some newspapers. But from what my understanding is, if you’re against the ruling government or any of the oligarch then you will be shut down. Is this true?

    1. Garo,
      Thats a valid question for one witnessing this all from aside.

      There is no categoric YES or categoric NO answer to your question.
      Officially, of course the government does knock your door and say you have to close your channel down. And officially, your channel is not being deprived of license because you are oppositional, the reasons are always within the governing law.

      Just like with Wikileaks, no one says “we want to close them down because they jeopardize US gov, etc…”. There are always other reasons to close them down (including rape allegations).

      Now, just to inform you that this issue is only with TV. I do not know any other oppositional broadcasting media (radio for example) or newspaper, or website closed down by the government. Even those from opposition in jail, their newspapers are being printed and sold pretty good. They sell adverts, they publish news, they earn money, etc…..

      So you judge if there is a freedom of speech or not here….

      ALM was not an oppositional media, it was a low quality content entertainment media, based around one person. From time to time that person would appear on his own channel and would claim some things from the government, mostly unrealistic claims. At the same time this person is so so narrow minded that he did not bother to invest $ 8 in a domain name and make a website for his TV channel. Even opposition does not take him seriously.

      There was another oppositional channel (A1+) which did not get a TV broadcasting license. They of course broadcast online and you can enjoy them live via internet on armenia.im website. (Or their own website, a1plus.am if you can find the right button to push).
      BUT the true reason for not getting a license was not politics this time. They simply wanted to make a political show and presented fake documents for the tender.

      The government published those documents online and it was a real shame to realize all this. I was trying to find a tangible justification on A1+ site for what happened, but there were only political slogans and demands and nicknames. Nothing serious about fake documents.

      I mean again, there is no categoric YES or categoric NO for your question.

      One more fact. A1+website is visited 5 times less (!) than a major pro-governmental news website. This tells me a lot. This tells me that we have an opposition crisis now. This tells me that the guys would prefer to present fake documents and make it a show, rather than to invest in a TV channel. (I would not invest in it too if I had 5 times less visitors than a pro-governmental site.)…

      Yes, the government is partially consisting of jerks. Yes, corruption level makes us look really bad. Yes we have many other issues. But I would not call today’s opposition “brilliant” and I would not categorically say if there is or there no freedom of speech in Armenia.

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