Round table on problems of Radio & TV

Azat Artsakh – Republic of Nagorno Karabakh
March 19 2004


Within the framework of the program `Maintenance of Democracy in the
South Caucasus through Freedom of Speech’ Stepanakert Press Club and
the international organization `Article 19′ organized a round table
on March 16 on the topic `Public Radio and Television: Problems and
Prospects’. To the round table were invited the member of the board
of directors of the association of journalists of Poland, freelance
reporter of the newspaper `Recpospolita’ Agneska Romashevska (Poland)
and the coordinator of the European program of the international
organization `Article 19′ Irina Smolina (Great Britain). At the round
table were also present representatives of the Karabakh mass media
and students. The aim was one – to find out what changes have taken
place in the Artsakh radio and television after giving it a public
status. The executive director of Artsakh radio and television Garik
Grigorian informed that recently the public television has been
provided with new equipment. Investments of 25 thousand dollars have
been made. However, the new equipment, according to TV reporter
Narine Aghabalian, is neither due to the council, nor the fact of
changing the status of the television to public. According to her,
soon or late those changes were to be made in the television, which
was dictated by the time. Garik Grigorian mentioned about the
drawbacks in the legislative sphere. `The reason is the RA law `About
the Mass Media’ adopted under the obligation of the Council of
Europe, which was introduced in NKR without any changes. Today there
is a necessity to make changes into this law.’ G.Grigorian also
touched upon the activity of the council of radio and television. `In
the Republic of Armenia the members of the council are paid, whereas
here it is not so unfortunately. The members of the council, except
the chairman of the council, work according to public principles and
their activity is brought to a level of formality. In Armenia the
council directs the public television, radio and the studio of
documentary films `Yerevan’ and carries out gigantic work. Here the
council meets once a month.’ According to G. Grigorian, we are at
martial law therefore we should realize the value of word. `The
notion of full freedom or independence is unintelligible for me,’
mentioned the executive director. In her greeting Irina Smolina
mentioned that in all the post-Soviet countries the problem of truly
independent mass media persists. In many countries, according to her,
only the signs are changed, whereas the activity remains the same.
She said that everything should be done to found a truly public
television for which it is absolutely necessary to be independent of
the government, first of all, financially. According to her, it is
the viewers and the listeners that should implement financing. In the
name of the council Naira Hayrumian summed up the results of the work
done in the past year. According to her, much cannot be done within
an hour of broadcasting, especially that the television of Artsakh
does not have its own broadcasting frequency but is transmitted by
others’ channels. And the solution of this problem, according to
Naira Hayrumian, requires about 100-150 thousand dollars. She also
mentioned the question of increasing the salaries in the radio and TV
for which 17 million AM drams were provided from the state budget.
Besides, according to her, two new programs have been broadcast, the
transmission of the parliamentary hour has been resumed, as well as
the projects of two new talk shows are with the chairman of the
council Maxim Hovhannissian which are still to be discussed. Naira
Hayrumian mentioned that there is need for entertainment shows.
According to her, it is also very important to decide the rating of
this or that program and to have the web site of the television. The
editor-in-chief of the public radio Vilen Bakhshiyan commented on the
idea of Gegham Baghdassarian, the head of the press club that in the
recent 30 years no changes took place in the radio. According to him,
changes were made in the 70’s and 80’s. `Only in these recent years
they were not significant.’ Vilen Bakhshiyan sees their solution in
acquirement of new equipment. Although there were also suggestions to
make changes in the staff. The head of the permanent committee of the
National assembly for foreign relationships and information Vahram
Atanessian touched upon the changes provided in the legislation about
the council of radio and television. According to him, the
legislative field has drawbacks. Besides, the attitude of the
authorities towards the radio and television when transforming from
state to public was not always positive. `It is wrong to unite the
radio and television. One of the serious steps would be separating
them. Moreover, they both must be funded equally.’ According to V.
Atanessian, it is necessary to constitute a special commission which
will deal with providing broadcasting frequencies and licensing. He
also emphasized the importance of overcoming the inertness of the
society, journalists and the political sphere. `Is there demand for
information? It seems that the society is satisfied with the
information it receives (the sources of which are not always
official) whereas the mass media are for educating taste and not for
providing mere information,’ he said. According to the head of the
main department of information under the NKR president Alexander
Grigorian, a public television does not mean a multi-party television
and radio. And in answer to the opinions about becoming financially
independent of the state, A. Grigorian said, `Who in that case will
finance it if not the state? Is our society ready to finance the
public radio and television?’ Agneska Romashevska spoke on the topics
of standards of public TV broadcasting, difficulties in transforming
from state to public radio and television, the tactics of the public
radio and television in the absence of an alternative television. She
presented in detail how this process took place in her home country,
Poland. She mentioned that the journalists are the eyes and ears of
the society and therefore have an important role in building society.
The participants of the round table unanimously characterized the
activity of the public radio as `not excellent’. As to the reasons,
the opinions were different. Some think that technical supply will
help to raise the quality of programs, others think that technical
support is not enough and changes in the staff are also necessary.
Radio reporter Seyran Karapetian supported the first idea. A.
Romashevska added that it will not be possible to attract young
audience unless the time of radio broadcasting is not prolonged.
According to her, the best hours for radio programs are morning
hours, and this gap should also be filled. Member of the Stepanakert
Press Club Karine Ohanian presented the results of the public opinion
poll held among 50 journalists, aiming to find out their opinion what
changes took place in the public radio and television after changing
it into public. Thirty of the questioned fifty were workers of the
radio and television. Thus, in reference to radio 28 answered that no
changes were made (of them 17 working in the radio or television).
Nine people think that certain changes were made. In reference to the
television 19 people think that the appearance changed, but the
contents remained the same. 16 think that certain changes took place.
29 said they prefer the news and analytical programs of the public
television, 10 watch mainly social and political programs, 9 people
watch all the programs, 5 people do not watch any programs, 3 found
it difficult to answer and 5 gave different answers. In reference to
the public radio 19 said they prefer information and analytical
programs, 20 people do not listen to any programs (of them 12 work in
the radio or television), 5 prefer social-political, 4 cultural,
sport and entertainment programs, 4 listen to all the programs, 2
people prefer popular scientific programs and 2 people Russian
programs. 4 of the questioned found it difficult to answer. `Does the
staff of the public television correspond to the present standards?’
This was the next question to which 18 people said that mainly yes
(15 working in the television or the radio), and 15 said mainly no. 7
people gave a negative answer. 2 people gave a positive answer, 4
people found it difficult to answer and 4 gave other variants. In
answer to the same question referring to the public radio 15 people
said that mainly yes, 13 gave a negative answer. 9 think that mainly
yes, 1 gave a positive answer, 11 people found it difficult to answer
and 1 gave a different variant of answer. The question `What changes
would you like to see in the public television and radio?’ was
interesting in the sense that there were no fixed variants of answer
and the questioned had to give their opinions. Thus, 46 people think
that the public television needs new programs, freedom, actuality,
independence from the authorities. 15 people think that there is need
for greater responsibility and professionalism. 12 are for staff and
structural changes. 12 (all of them working in the radio and
television) think there is need for improvement of technical
conditions, 6 mentioned the need of increasing the hours of
broadcasting. As to the radio, the picture is the following: 26 think
there is a need for new programs, freedom, actuality, independence
from the authorities, 16 (all of them working in the radio r the
television) mention the need for improvement of technical conditions,
13 are for staff and structural changes, 8 are for increasing the
hours of broadcasting, and 5 would like to see fundamental changes in
the radio.