PARIS — AYP FM, the voice of Armenia, supported by the French Armenian diaspora, has been broadcasting since 1993 on the 99.5 MHz frequency, which it shares with France Maghreb, on DAB+ in Paris and Marseille, and online.
Based in the Paris suburb of Alfortville, where 10% of the local population is Armenian, AYP FM added IP in 2021 while modernizing its studios. The station operates with five permanent employees and some 30 volunteers of Armenian background from all generations. Its objective is to promote the Armenian cultural heritage.
The station is subsidized by the Fonds de soutien à l’expression radiophonique locale (FSER), a support fund founded by the French Ministry of Culture to support local radio; with a maximum advertising limit of 20%. The current economic crisis is impacting its income, as is the increase of advertising on social networks, and slowing its development.
Intensifying its editorial mission for Armenia
AYP FM is a “trilingual” radio station — in addition to French, it broadcasts in Eastern Armenian (the language of today’s Armenia, developed in the country and the former USSR) and Western Armenian (the language of the 1915 genocide survivors and the diaspora). For Henri Papazian, the station’s president and an engineer by training, the language mix is important for Armenia’s living memory, “We must preserve this balance, this Western language, and this spelling, in which most of our cultural archives were developed.”
The primary purpose of AYP FM — to support and cover events within the French Armenian community — has evolved during the dramatic events in the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. “It is a real ethnic cleansing,” deplores Papazian, adding, “100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh were persecuted and chased off their land and had to escape within 48 hours. During nine months of a total blockade in the region, the only humanitarian corridor between Armenia and Karabakh was closed by the Azeris; the population was hungry and threatened.”
Papazian says that many people want to take part in the station’s on-air programs, by telephone and video, to talk with people living in Armenia and other countries of the diaspora. “We have a strong community in France — it is the third-largest after Russia and the U.S. We have been working a lot with the French government (President Emmanuel Macron’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and we have struck a chord,” he adds.
AYP FM also broadcasts video programs on social media networks. It has installed the necessary setup for visual radio and recruited a specialized video reporter. “We now actively use social media networks, from which we were previously largely absent. We also cover public events of the Armenian community in France by video, which we broadcast on social networks, and which the Armenian community can follow,” says Papazian.
Adapting programs to the situation
The staff at AYP FM cover news of what is happening in Armenia using information collected from Armenian daily newspapers and broadcasts information in French and Armenian: Four daily reports of 8–10 minutes in Armenian and three in French, covering the same themes but with a different approach. They also broadcast weekly news reports of 15 to 20 minutes, one in Armenian and the other in French, about the events of the past week.
“We also have specialized programs, such as our flagship program ‘Cartes sur table’ on Saturday mornings,” says Papazian. “Originally designed as a debate and discussion program with personalities and figures from diverse artistic, cultural and political points of view, this one-and-a-half-hour program has recently focused on the situation in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, featuring interviews with political figures. Our listeners eagerly await these debates and exchanges. Historians specializing in genocides have reached out and spoken on the program. We recently featured — on-air and across social media — an exclusive interview with Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the former first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”
Digitization and connections — major assets
AYP FM completely modernized its studios in 2021. Broadcast-associés installed and integrated new media-over-IP equipment to provide better visibility and expanded functionality with the aim of reaching a broader generation base.
The station now boasts a completely digital broadcast infrastructure to facilitate switching between studios, including Axia touch consoles from equipment integrator IP Studio, along with RCS GSelector scheduling and Zetta automation software systems. The visual radio studio features three small wide-angle HD cameras, specialized LED lighting for the guest set and video screens to enable live broadcasts on social networks and online.
As a result, AYP FM’s audio and video programs reach across the world, especially to the Armenian diaspora in 30 countries, including Russia, United States, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Lebanon, Iran, Argentina, Uruguay and Australia.
AYP FM has expanded its reach to have the cause of the persecuted Armenian people in the Caucasus heard. With its team, the commitment of its director Henri Papazian and its digital broadcast tools, it carries the voice of the Armenians of France far away.
The author has worked in the radio industry for over 30 years. She has held posts as both a producer and presenter for French stations, such as Radio Notre Dame and Radio France’s France Culture. In addition to being involved with academic research and EU consulting in Brussels, she specializes in print.