Wednesday, 19 September

ALM, the new cult of personality

Against the dull and monotonous background of Armenian TV stations, where each shows the same faces and covers the same events, ALM TV sometimes seems to live up to its name (ALM in Armenian stands for Alternative Mass Medium). But it's a strange alternative, and it takes strong nerves to watch ALM. Unless of course, you're in love with Tigran Karapetyan, or Tigran Karapetich, as he is known at this TV station, and wait every night in front of your TV screen for his fiery dance or fiery conversation. Although it's hard to say that Tigran Karapetich converses. Rather he fights on the air.

It doesn't matter who he's talking to - Tigran Karapetich always finds a reason to contradict his guest in an outburst designed to display his advantage. His attempts at discussion always fail, as he invariably subjects his guest to a surprise attack. If the guest sticks to his guns, Karapetich starts yelling. This is what happened on October 30, 2004 when Arshak Sadoyan appeared on the program Value of the Question . The experienced, debate-hardened politician retreated before Karapetich, momentarily struck dumb by surprise. Tigran Karapetich spent fifteen whole minutes asking Sadoyan why Artashes Geghamyan hadn't attended the People's Party (HZhK) convention. And when he learned that Sadoyan hadn't even tried to find out, he flew into a rage. He wouldn't listen to Sadoyan's explanations; he just kept yelling. Sadoyan started yelling back; there was a hullabaloo in the studio. We even thought for a moment that Sadoyan would have a heart attack, though he survived.

The program Value of the Question is like a bullfight, but unlike a Spanish corrida , the outcome is always the same-Tigran Karapetyan wins. Every time I look at Karapetyan's guests, I wonder why these people accept his invitation, if they cannot even talk during the show, if their turn never comes? And that's if they're lucky. Very often Karapetich insults them, does all he can to show that they have never done anything worthwhile for society, unlike him who has already let 34,000 children sing on the air. Politicians who come in the hope of advertising their views or their party leave the studio discredited. Because ALM viewers know one truth, one god - Tigran Karapetich. Many people in the Armenian provinces swear on Karapetyan's name. A new cult of personality is taking shape. But one cannot blame the people. In these troubled times, only ALM remembers them and the people are grateful. The other TV stations only mention the marzes of Armenia when the president or the prime minister visits. And they only visit from election to election.

Most likely, politicians attach little importance to ALM's march on the Armenian marzes. This means they don't understand the power of television. In fact, all of Karapetyan's programs are campaigns advertisements, and he already has his own electorate. On November 14, 2004 during the program New Voices, a historian from Ashtarak naively called upon the authorities not to paint the innocent show on a political background, for "Tigran Karapetyan is just helping to discover our talented children." But all those who plan to participate in the next parliamentary elections had better come to their senses. Because it is possible that in 2007 Tigran Karapetyan's Popular Party will become the parliamentary majority.

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