Country report – Latvia April 2013

01.10.2014 12:37
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Public Service Media

  • Latvian public service media concept

On 7 January 2013, the National Electronic Media Council (NEMC) approved the concept of the Latvian Public Service Media (LPSM) that envisages the creation of Latvia’s leading media in five years time through the merger of the Latvian Television (LTV), Latvian Radio (LR) and Internet platforms. The aims of the LPSM are:

-          to achieve a significant increase in the size of audience (TV from 36% of Latvia’s population in 2012 to 50% in 2018; radio from 25% to 44% and Internet from 0.5% to 30%) so that by 2018, the LPSM will reach 75% of the population by 2018;

-          to create Latvia’s most powerful Internet media; and

-          to defend the interests of society.

In terms of content, the priorities are news and current affairs programmes, education and science, programmes for children and youth as well as culture programmes. The Council envisages a gradual transition from state subsidies to independent financing through a public service media levy or charge. At the same time the PSM will retain a limited presence in the advertising market in order keep public co-financing as low as possible.

 

Drafting of the concept involved over 200 Latvian and foreign experts who deliberated in 45 working group meetings.

 

The LPSM concept is now in the process of being co-ordinated among ministries and other institutions for example, the Latvian Union of Journalists. The deadline for co-ordination is the beginning of May. After that the concept will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval later that month.

 

  • The Board of Latvian Television (LTV)

 

The NEMC agreed on enlarging the boards of both LTV and LR to three members on each board. In the future the boards will consist of the chairperson, a member responsible for programme development issues and one for financial and technological issues. Until now the boards consisted of only one member. The new board of LTV was appointed on 7 March.

 

The Council has set over 30 tasks for the new board of LTV. Already in 2013, the board has to increase financing by at least 10% more than last year through effective management. In terms of content, news programmes should be increase by 2% and there should be an increase in current affairs, education and science, children’s and youth programming as well as culture programmes.

 

  • Joint Latvian Television and Latvian Radio Internet Portal

 

The joint LTV and LR Internet portal went live on 3 February. In the first full month (March) it had 84 300 unique visitors. The portal will be gradually developed into a unified public service media portal.

 

  • Changes in legislation

 

National commercial television channels no longer subject to must carry rules

 

On 4 October 2012 parliament adopted the NEMC supported amendments to the Electronic Media Law revoking must carry status for nation commercial television channels. The amendments allow national channels, currently TV3 and LNT, to charge cable operators for content delivered. The amendments also envisage that must carry status without charging for content applies only to public service television. This situation will apply from 31 March to 1 January 2014. From the beginning of 2014 regulations are planned for determining the type of channels offered in the basic package according to Latvia’s national interests. The NEMC is currently working on this regulation.

 

  • Pay Digital Terrestrial Television broadcasting from 1 January 2014

 

On 9 April the Cabinet adopted a regulation on tender for the provision of pay DTV broadcasting services. It envisages the licensing of one service provider for the period 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2021. The winner of the tender should be announced by 1 July. Although the NEMC, with the approval of the Competition Council, had proposed there be more than one licensed provider which would have increased competition for the 7% of the pay TV audience who currently only have a choice between terrestrial and satellite TV, parliament opted for the single licensed provider model.

 

Currently, both pay and free-to-air DTV is provided by Lattelecom in collaboration with the Latvian State Radio and Television Centre (LSRTC). From 1 January 2014 free-to-air television (currently the public service channels LTV1 and LTV7 as well as the national commercial channels TV3 and LNT) transmission will be provided by the LSRTC but pay television services by the winner of the tender.

 

  • Amendments to the pre-election agitation regulations

 

The Law on Pre-election agitation came into force on 1 January 2013, which prohibits political advertising on television during the 30 days before election day. The law also envisages a compensation mechanism for free airtime given to candidates. The Cabinet has allocated 170 000 LVL (approx. 242 700 EUR) for the production and transmission of pre-election broadcasts on national, regional and local television channels before the local government elections on 1 June 2013. The financing is to be allocated through a tendering process. The subsidy is intended for the production of seven political discussion programmes in order to permit each list of candidates to appear at least once in the pre-election programmes.

 

  • Transposition of the AVMS Directive

 

On 18 April parliament passed a bill amending the Law on Electronic Media that took into account inconsistencies with the AVMS Directive that had been pointed out by the European Commission. The amendments were mainly concerned with the advertising of medicines and medical treatment, sponsorship rules and short extracts with regard to major events and exclusive rights.

 

Radio and Television Day

 

The NEMC has initiated an annual Radio and Television Day that includes both a media criticism and research conference as well as the Celmlauzis (Pioneer, Trailblazer) Prize for creativity in the electronic media. The prize is awarded for the most important innovation in the work and journalism in Latvia’s electronic media.

 

This year the prize was awarded to the Latvian regional television company Re:TV that united 12 Latvian regional and local channels and began operations on 20 June 2012 on the Lattelecom interactive television service. Re:TV content consists of video materials produced every day by the regional and local channels – local news, thematic broadcasts, documentaries, informative and entertainment programmes. From February 2013 Re:TV has expanded its operations and is now also available on Lattelecom’s DTV service.