From CENASIA@LISTS.MCGILL.CA Wed Aug 9 11:19:14 2000
Osh TV's broadcasting license extended 'till the end of 2000
By Chris Schuepp, Internews Kyrgyz Republic, 9 August 2000
Osh TV, Central Asia's oldest private TV station, was granted another extension to their broadcasting license today. The State Commission for Radio Frequencies in Bishkek decided during a special meeting in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek that Osh TV does not have to leave the metro channel in the Southern city of Osh immediately but can keep broadcasting on it at least till the end of the year. Osh TV director Khaliljan Khudaiberdiev was informed about the decision by Nikolaij Nikolaijev, deputy director of the Kyrgyz National Agency for Communications (NAC), via phone in the Internews office in Bishkek in the afternoon where Mr. Khudaiberdiev was nervously waiting for the news on the future of his TV station. Mr. Khudaiberdiev was also told that he will receive the relevant documents tomorrow morning in the NAC office.
Today's decision came after massive protest by journalists in Osh and a political intervention by Temirbek Asanbekovitch, the governor of Osh, who had anticipated growing protests and among the population of Osh and had called the Bishkek authorities in order to reach a workable compromise with Osh TV.
More than twenty journalists from the town of Osh had gathered on August 3rd in front of the Osh TV's office (an Osh-based private TV-station broadcasting in the Uzbek language) protesting against the attempt of representatives of the National Agency of Communictions (NAC) to seal up the station's broadcasting transmitter on fifth VHF channel. The representatives of the southern branch of Kyrgyzstan's National Agency for Communications had told journalists that their actions were the result of the fact that Osh TV did not comply with the previous decree issued by the Kyrgyz National Agency for Communications on 29 June, 2000. The decree signed by Esen Topoev, the chairman of the Kyrghyz State Commission for Radio Frequencies who is also Kyrghyzstan's defense minister, rejected Osh TV's appeal to prolong its license to broadcast on VHF fifth channel, put a deadline for ceasing Osh TV's broadcasting- 01.07.2000 ( July 1st), and assigned the Kyrghyz National Agency for Communications to oversee the implementation of the decree.
Khaliljan Khudaiberdiev, Osh TV director refused to sign the statement prepared by Asanov Talaibek, NAC representative, that would certify Osh TV agreed with this measure of NAC. According to Khaliljan Khudaiberdiev, the process of changing from VHF to UHF broadcasting is extremly costly for the station's budget. About two million Kyrgyz soms, the equivalent of USD 42,675, is needed to change equipment and infrustructure necessary for UHF broadcasting. More importantly, the change of frequency can result in the loss of the majority of Osh TV audience (mostly ethnic Uzbeks) because the UHF would require special equipment for the viewers to receive Osh TV programming. Mr. Khudaiberdiev did not rule out the possibility that this process might lead to Osh TV's closing down.
On 3 August, Khaliljan Khudaiberdiev announced his intention to file a complaint against the NAC decree and unauthorized actions by NAC representatives who did not have an official sanction to seal up the transmitter in hand. Mr. Khudaiberdiev is convinced that actions of NAC are unlawful:according to the existing Kyrghyz law on media, only the court verdict or the founding body can close down or stop the functioning of a media outlet. An attempt to seal up the transmitter of Osh-TV is a direct discriminatory act on the part of the governmental agency. He refers to the example of a government owned KTR (Kyrgyz Teleradio Company) that uses the same VHF and mega hertz frequency out side Osh and in Bishek, and that did not get any official notification to cease broadcasting. Khaliljan Khudaiberdiev turned to Internews-Kyrghyzstan, which provided a consultation on legal aspects connected to Osh TV present situation. Internews has also expressed willingness to assist Osh TV with this case.
Later last week, Mr. Khudaiberdiev received and order to appear before the National Commission for Broadcasting for violating article 271 of the Administrative Code. According to this, he could be fined from 10 to 100 times the monthly minimum salary for illegal broadcasting during the month of July.
Osh TV received the initial license to broadcast on the metro channel as far back as in 1995. They worked on this channel without having any problems till March 1999, when the newly formed National Agency for Communications took their license back and ordered the station to reregister. Oh TV then was granted the broadcasting license till the end of 1999 which was extended once more till the 1st of July 2000. Today's decision cannot solve the fundamental problem though, it only postpones it ill the end of 2000. Osh TV has the right to broadcast till the year 2004, but the license for the metro channel will run out at the end of this year. In the next five months they will not be able to find enough funds to make a switch to UHF possible, so the same process will start over again later this year.
Internews Kyrgyz Republic, the Osh Media Resource Center and Osh TV will work together in the months to come to find a sustainable solution for Central Asia's oldest private TV outlet which gives independent journalists a fair chance to work without governmental interference.
Internews Kyrgyz Republic