Country report – Latvia September 2017

1.    NEPLP begins expert discussion cycle

In May, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) began an expert discussion cycle with the aim forming and strengthening quality journalism and attract more attention from society on matters related to media literacy. Media literacy is one of the functions of the NEPLP. The Latvia media policy guidelines for 2016-2020 includes the creation of a media ombudsman. While we are on our way to the creation of an ombudsman, the NEPLP has invited experts in the sphere and other involved sides to discuss matters related to journalistic challenges in the electronic media. During the first discussion, the experts offered their views on publicly commissioned content, which have served as a basis for stark differences in their assessment and even complaints. The experts discussed how information in the media is interpreted, and who determines this interpretation. Media responsibility was emphasized when reporting on sensitive topics, especially on children’s rights issues, pointing out that the main responsibility lies on the shoulders of editors, not just journalists. During the second discussion session, media representatives, political experts, sociologists and others came together for several hours to discuss how the local government elections were reflected in the media, as well as the media’s role in democratic processes, thus attempting to identify the changes needed ahead of the 2018 Saeima (Latvian parliament) elections. The experts emphasized that the role traditional media plays in forming public opinion is lessening, and being replaced by social networks and social media. Furthermore, media literacy by society itself now plays a critically crucial role.


2.    Programming content for television viewers in Latvia becomes more accessible and varied

On July 1, 2017, amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law came into force, which foresee that all distributors of television programming services must increase the number of mandatory television channels in their basic packages. Before July 1, all television providers were obliged to include five television channels in their standard package - LTV1, LTV7, Rīga TV24, Re:TV and TV, but as of July 1 television providers had to include at least four more mandatory channels offering television programing from Latvia or the European Union. The law amendments foresee that television service providers must include the following television programs: at least one television broadcaster which mostly reports news, analytical and informative content created in the EU in one of the official EU languages; at least one broadcaster which features content in the state language in 50% of its overall broadcasting time, with the condition that the mentioned channel has a broadcasting time of at least 18 hours per day, has received the necessary permission to broadcast and distribute the content in Latvia and observes certain broadcasting conditions, as well as ensures a high-quality and uninterrupted signal to the respective electronic mass media which provides the television distribution service;  at least one television broadcaster which provides popular-science programming content from the EU in one of the official EU languages; at least one broadcaster which provides children’s and youth content from the EU in one of the official EU languages.

3.    2016 annual reports of LTV and LR approved

On May 30, the NEPLP approved the annual 2016 reports of the state-owned public television Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) and public radio Latvijas Radio (LR) companies. Both public media broadcasters were successful in meeting their objectives to reach their respective audiences and produce content which the audience is satisfied in. In 2016, LTV1 was the second-most watched television channel in Latvia. LTV was also successful in increasing its audience in the economically active age group (35 to 64). 75% of regular viewers were satisfied with LTV’s content in 2016. When looking at ethnicity, 72% of ethnic Latvians were satisfied with Latvian Television’s content, compared to 38% of non-Latvians. In 2016, LR substantially increase its regional information volumes, paying especial attention to the country’s eastern region, where in 2016 a studio in Latgale was successfully launched. All five of LR’s stations reached 43,800 hours of broadcasting time in 2016. 50% of radio listeners in Latvia between the ages of 15 to 74 listen to least one LR station at least once per week, and 37% of radio listeners say that at least one of LR’s stations is their favorite, which they usually listen to most frequently. 

4.    IMLO Lat–Ireland wins tender for creation of TV content on diaspora matters

The Irish company IMLO Lat–Ireland Ltd has been named the winner of the tender announced by the NEPLP and the Foreign Ministry for the creation of television content and programming on the subject of diaspora and reimmigration matters. As part of the public tender, IMLO Lat–Ireland plans to create five 26-minute programs called Piektais Novads (Fifth Region), which will each be made up of 2-3 separate reports or stories about current issues within the diaspora, as well as viewpoints on matters important to the diaspora, including reimmigration. After approving the winner of the tender, the NEPLP recommended IMLO Lat-Ireland Ltd to improve the reachability of the target audience. The programing is being put together with support from the Foreign Ministry, which has allocated EUR 23,000 for the project.

5.    NEPLP confirms new Public Advisory Council

On May 11, the NEPLP confirmed the new Public Advisory Council. The NEPLP received applications from 29 public and non-government organizations, who put forward 27 candidates for the advisory council. Dace Kotzeva, executive director of the For Legal Content association, was voted in as the advisory council’s chairwoman, while Andris Ķēniņš, the executive director of the Latvian Association of Broadcasters, was voted in as the council’s deputy chairman. The Public Advisory Council is a consultative institution of the NEPLP, whose task is to ensure the public’s participation in public tenders and in creating the development strategy for the electronic mass media sector in Latvia. Members of the Public Advisory Council must also refrain from discussing or making decisions on matters which is or could lead to a conflict of interest.

6.    Tender announced for LR board chairman post and LR board member responsible for financial management post

On August 10, a tender was announced for the post of LR board chairman, as well as board member responsible for financial management of LR. A total of 28 candidates applied. On September 7, the NEPLP’s evaluation committee, after acquainting themselves with the information submitted by all of the candidates for the two posts, decided to put through to the next evaluation round 11 candidates for the board chairman post and seven candidates who applied for the board member responsible for financial management post. The results of the tender will be known in October.