On February 12, 2019, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced in the National Assembly that the employees of the liquidated “Shirak” Public Television will not lose their jobs, as there is an investor.
In particular, the Prime Minister noted that there is an agreement with the investor, and the government will transfer the assets of “Shirak” Public Television to that investor, and he will keep those jobs for at least the next few years. “According to our agreement, those people will not be left without a job,” Pashinyan said.
One of the readers of the Fact Investigation Platform asked to find out what stage the private investment is currently at.
Why was Shirak TV liquidated?
The decision to liquidate Shirak Public Television and Radio CJSC was made on January 31, 2019, during a government session.
As a justification, it was mentioned that from October 26, 2016, the analog broadcasting was switched off in the territory of the Republic of Armenia, and a complete transition to digital television broadcasting has been made. “The government’s initiative to liquidate Shirak Public Television and Radio CJSC is due to the fact that the company still conducts analog broadcasting, so it is unable to provide a wide audience, and digital broadcasting will require relevant legislation and significant financial investment, which is unrealistic at the moment,” the decision said.
In an interview with Fip.am, Arthur Ghandilyan, former executive director of Shirak Public Television and Radio and founder of Tsayg Regional TV, noted that until April 8, 2019, 43 employees of the company continued their normal work. According to the data provided to us by the Council of Public Television and Radio Company of Armenia, at the time of the liquidation, 43 employees were registered in the company, 3 of which were not part of the core staff. Employment benefits were paid to 40 employees.
According to the CEO, the liquidation process of the company was completed in February 2020.
No investment has been made in Shirak Public TV
No investment has been made in Shirak Public TV. In response to the inquiry from the Fact Investigation Platform, the government noted that there were problems during the discussion of the program.
“During the discussion on the implementation of an investment program in Shirak Public Television, legal and technical issues arose, including those related to the channel, which did not allow the implementation of the investment program,” the response reads.
We were told by the Council of Public Television and Radio Company of Armenia that no individual or organization has expressed a desire to invest in Shirak TV and restart its operations.
Artur Ghandilyan, in his turn, noted that discussions on investments took place before the liquidation as an alternative to closing the company. However, investing was not actually profitable, as the coverage of the TV company was small, and so there was no investor. However, he added that according to his information, at the initial stage there was an investor.
“According to the Law on Television and Radio, one digital broadcasting license is issued for each province. In Shirak province, that license was issued to Tsayg TV.
Even if they wanted it a lot, there should have been legislative changes, there should have been permission, we should have participated in the bidding process, we should have acquired a license so that we could work as a private company. There could be an investor who would say, well, I would invest, but it was not clear how he was going to get his money back, because watching the analog is not enough,” Ghandilyan said.
Most employees of Shirak TV are still unemployed
Tigran Gasabyan worked at Shirak Public TV as a cameraman for almost 3 years.
In an interview with Fip.am, he said that the process of liquidating the company was very difficult for several dozen employees. They had high hopes after the Prime Minister’s speech in the National Assembly, but the promise to keep their jobs was not fulfilled, and most of the employees are still unemployed, including Tigran Gasabyan.
The latter says that it is not OK when the TV company, which has been operating for years, suddenly closes. “The TV company has been operating for 26 years, and then they suddenly throw 50 people out without giving it a thought. In my opinion, this is not OK. People had hopes, it was a public television after all, but they shut it down, arguing that its operation was not expedient. After all, they had promised not to shut it down. Well, an investor didn’t want to invest: and that’s it? Are you satisfied with that justification?” Gasabyan says.
He notes that it is difficult to find a job in Gyumri in general, and more difficult for people with narrow professions working in TV companies.
“Not only in Gyumri, but in the whole of Armenia, the situation in this field is disgraceful. Regional televisions have no money. People work somehow, and somehow they earn 2 pennies,” he said.
These conditions do not allow the cameraman to find a job in his profession, which is why he tries to change the type of his occupation.
To sum up, we can state that although Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced in 2019 that there is an investor and the assets of Shirak Public TV will be alienated to him, no investment has actually been made, and the employees of the TV company have been dismissed.