American humorist Will Rogers once said: “It costs so much to run for office, most people can't even afford to lose.”
Rogers’ American politicians spend more on makeup than Armenian candidates’ cost for a minute of airtime. Still, some of Armenia’s lesser-known (that is to say, outright obscure) candidates for the upcoming presidential election complain that advert spots are out of their budget reach.
Ahead of the February 18 election in Armenia TV companies have mostly left unchanged their rates for paid political advertisement; yet some among potential presidential candidates claim even that amount is “not affordable” to them.
The Central Election Commission set a demand from TV and radio companies, regardless of state or private, to submit their rates for paid airtime by December 18.
According to the amended Election Code, the price per minute of paid air cannot exceed the average commercial ad price for the six months preceding the official statement of the election date (this time it was December 8). Armenian public TV and public radio will provide up to 60 and 120 minutes respectively of free airtime for political advertisement.
Armenian Public TV (H1) told ArmeniaNow that a minute of paid air during this campaign period will cost 80,000 drams ($200), the same price was set in 2007 (prior to the 2008 presidential run).
A minute of political advertisement on Public Radio will cost the candidates 3,600 drams ($9).
Private TV rates are higher as compared to public TV. For example, Yerkir Media is asking 30,000 drams ($74) per minute, Kentron – 32,400 drams ($80), Armenia TV – 110,000 drams ($207).
Second Armenian TV (H2) told ArmeniaNow that Monday-Saturday between 6 p.m.-12 a.m. (prime time) political ads will cost 60,000 drams ($148) per minute, the rest of the time – 30,000 drams ($74).
The cheapest rates are offered by Yerevan and ArmNews TV companies, broadcast only in Yerevan, 15,000 drams ($37) and 18,000 drams ($45) per minute respectively.
The highest price has been set by Shant TV, which is asking 120,000 dams ($310) per minute of political ad.
Hence a presidential candidate must pay between 15,000 ($37) and 120,000 ($310) for airtime on TV or radio.
Potential candidate, epos expert, Vardan Sedrakyan told ArmeniaNow that the rates are too high, but to him the prices don’t matter, rather it’s a matter of preference.
“We don’t have to use all TV companies, for me personally there are companies I’d never place my political ad on,” he says.
Another marginal candidate Hovik Aghazaryan says he is not planning to allot that much money to political ads.
“I don’t see the point in spending that much money on ads; if I have to spend that much money to become a country leader, then I’d have to start thinking how to return my money, and I don’t have such intentions,” he told ArmeniaNow.
Presidential candidate freedom-fighter Martik Sargsyan believes the rates “are quite normal, because in other countries they are ten times higher”. He says he will mostly take advantage of free airtime and internet opportunities.