YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–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 said the demanded fee is excessive even when considering the fact that its network covers a much larger territory of Armenia than those of other broadcasters. It said 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.
Under this law companies awarded broadcasting licenses pay an annual sub-payment for using air frequencies. The amount of payment is calculated based only on the cost of the frequency.
According to Hayk Alumian, lawyer for Radio Hay, this provision allows the Government to willfully set the amount of sub-paymen’s and collection manner. He argued that the law sets the obligation to pay the payment but it does not set the payment amount and manner of payment.
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 competitive basis.