Country report – Latvia September 2014

06.10.2014 12:36

The public media

  • Radio and Television Day

One year ago, the NEPLP launched an annual tradition of a Radio and Television Day, which includes a media criticism and research conference, as well as a Ground-breaker Prize for creativity in the world of the electronic mass media and journalism.  This year the Ground-Breaker Prize was received by the portal (Radio Latvia and Latvian Television) as the most important innovator in the field of radio and television in 2013. The prize was awarded for the portal’s ability to synthesise the content of radio and television in a unified media platform.

  • NEPLP receives additional funding to strengthen news capacity at LTV, LR

The Cabinet of Ministers agreed to a request from the NEPLP for a contribution of EUR 713,000 from resources for unexpected instances, so as to establish the public commission related to Latvian Television, Radio Latvia and the unified public media portal so as to immediately improve the content of the media and to ensure the presentation of objective, balanced and timely information about events in Latvia and elsewhere in the world, thus making it possible to reach various audiences in Latvia and elsewhere in the world.

The additional financing will allow:

  • Radio Latvia to expand coverage in the frontier regions of Latvia, as well as to allow LR4, which is the most popular radio programme among Russian speakers in Latvia, to expand its audience;
  • to establish and popularise content in Russian;
  • Latvian Television to develop programming, including a news broadcast in Russian, expanded content, weekly research broadcasts in Russian, and campaign debates in Russian;
  • Establish a correspondent facility in Moscow;
  • Make additional investments in content-related marketing.

News from the world of the electronic mass media

  • Three new terrestrial broadcasting channels

In addition to the Latvian Television channels LTV1 and LTV7, audiences in Latvia have also been able to view the AS TV Latvia “Rīga TV 24” channel, the SIA “Ogre TV” channel “OTV” and the SIA Vidzeme Television channel “Re:TV” free of charge since January 1, 2014.  The channels won a bid for tenders organised by the NEPLP to find companies that could handle part of the public commission in terms of terrestrial broadcasting. The three channels received the status of national broadcasters.

  • NEPLP bans rebroadcasting of Rossija RTR

After examining the content of programmes rebroadcast in Latvia from the Rossija RTR channel between March 2 and March 17, 2014, the NEPLP found that the news and other broadcasts from the channel violated the Latvian law on the electronic mass media. For that reason, the NEPLP decided to limit the rebroadcasting of the channel in Latvia for three months so as to reduce the presence of propaganda in the country. The decision took effect on April 8.  The NEPLP believes that propaganda about war and fomenting of hatred exceed the boundaries of freedom of speech, and limitations on broadcasting or rebroadcasting are, therefore, based on Latvia and international legal norms.

  • NEPLP applies sanctions to PBK

The NEPLP implemented sanctions against SIA First Baltic Channel (PBK) because of an administrative violation related to the law on the electronic mass media that was committed during the broadcast “Time.” After evaluating broadcasts from February 25 and 26, as well as March 1, 2 and 4, the NEPLP decided that non-objective information and a unilateral viewpoint were being expressed about events in Ukraine, and so the NEPLP applied a maximum fine of EUR 3,600 against the channel. This was in part because the channel had committed such a violation more than once.

  • NEPLP calls for amendments to law

The NEPLP has asked the Saeima to update several norms in the law on the electronic mass media which have to do with the rebroadcasting of foreign television programmes in Latvia. One necessary amendment would involve a so-called “test regime” for television broadcasts – something that would be necessary in advance of receiving a rebroadcasting permit. The NEPLP has, on several occasions, warned cable television operators that rebroadcasting of foreign content in Latvia requires an NEPLP permit, and currently there is no test regime even though process relates to many other instances in the sector. The NEPLP has also asked the Saeima to update the law on the electronic mass media so as to allow the council and the employee of the state agency Electronic Communications to visit the technical rooms of the electronic mass media outlets so as to monitor the implementation of rules related to rebroadcasting permits. This would allow the NEPLP to identify violations of the rules so that they can be effectively prevented – something that is not possible at this time. The NEPLP has also asked for an expansion of the definition of rebroadcasting so that it can also be applied to satellite broadcasting. This is necessary so as to ensure equal competition among all electronic mass media companies irrespective of the technologies that are used to distribute programming.

  • NEPLP substantially supplements professional standards for debate broadcasts

The NEPLP has substantially supplemented guidelines that were established last year in terms of the rules of the electronic mass media law that apply to news, informational, documentary and debate broadcasts, particularly focusing on such broadcasts during campaign seasons. The supplemented guidelines state that if there is less than a week before an election, the producers of broadcasts must not provide information to the audience that has not been examined thoroughly or that is based on anonymous sources if that can influence the election results. If a media outlet has not obtained views that are of critical importance in terms of the relevant topic (e.g., the views of a candidate who has, for the first time, faced public and serious charges on the part of competitors), then the audience must be told about the attempts that have been made to learn the relevant viewpoint, as well as how many times such attempts have been made.

  • A creative seminar on the electronic mass media

The NEPLP organised a creative seminar on the electronic mass media on June 14 and 15. The emphasis at the event was on practical activities led by experienced television and radio professionals. The discussion focused on editing of broadcasts, the production of stories on television stations, copyright, and the production of television broadcasts. There were practical exercises related to portrait interviews, as well as a practical seminar on producing radio stories. Participants could also work with a multi-camera taping regime and learn about the operations of the “TriCaster” virtual television studio.