Country report - Latvia May 2016

06.05.2016 11:42

NEPLP reallocates duties of Council members

The National Electronic Mass Media Council (Nacionālā elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome, NEPLP) confirmed Aija Dulevska, then Acting Council Chairwoman, as the Chairwoman of the NEPLP on January 4, and Dace Ķezbere as her deputy. Council Chairwoman Aija Dulevska coordinates the work of the NEPLP, supervises drafting of amendments to laws and regulations on the operations of electronic mass media, and maintains supervision of commercial audio and electronic mass media (commercial radios). NEPLP Deputy Chairwoman Dace Ķezbere is in charge of supervision of the public television Latvijas Televīzija (LTV). NEPLP Member Dainis Mjartāns is responsible for supervision of the public radio Latvijas Radio (LR). NEPLP Member Ivars Zviedris is the person supervising commercial local and regional audiovisual electronic mass media and cable televisions. NEPLP member Ainārs Dimants supervises and coordinates joint projects of the public media, LR and LTV, as well as oversees operations of commercial national and transfrontier audiovisual electronic mass media (commercial televisions).

Amendments to Electronic Mass Media Development Strategy confirmed

The NEPLP has confirmed amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Development Strategy 2012-2017. The strategy has been supplemented with a provision, which stipulates that, in granting broadcasting permits, the NEPLP gives priority to “such local, regional, national and transfrontier electronic mass media that mostly broadcast in the Latvian language and whose main principles of operations envisage content for the most part created in Latvia (except for audio programs). In granting a broadcasting permit, the reputation and sustainability of operations of the owner of the medium is taken into consideration, as well as national defense and security interests of Latvia.”

Tender by TV wins free terrestrial broadcasting competition

The NEPLP has selected a bid submitted by the sports TV channel (SIA 4.VARA) as the winner of the competition. The new TV program will have to promote active lifestyle. TV said in its application that it would broadcast 260 sports events (Latvian and Baltic championships in various sports) live as part of the public service remit in 2016. The agreement with the competition winner will be in force until the end of 2016, with the option of prolonging the agreement after expiration. The funding for 2016 is planned at EUR 348,603, and similar funding is also planned for the next two years, however, it may be reduced depending on the total budget of the public service remit.

Regional televisions discuss opportunities for improving quality of content

The NEPLP, in collaboration with the Association of Regional Televisions and Re:TV, organized a two-day Regional and Local Television Seminar, attended by 50 representatives from nine regional televisions, two student televisions, and production groups. The objective of the seminar was to discuss the quality of materials broadcast by regional and local televisions, and arrive at specific solutions for content improvements.

Permit issued to non-commercial Christian radio

The NEPLP approved alterations to broadcasting permits granted to the electronic mass media SIA Radio Augšdaugava, SIA QBS and SIA RETRO FM Liepāja, which stipulate changing the name of the radio program to Radio Marija Latvija, a non-commercial radio station. The program of Radio Marija will include regular broadcasts of church services, various news and information programs. Radio Marija Latvija belongs to the association Radio Marija Latvija, the radio station will run entirely on donations. Radio Marija is a Christian radio program.

Competition on creation of news stories about developments in the regions in 2016 closes

The NEPLP announced the winners of the competition: SIA Skrundas TV (in Kurzeme), SIA Valmieras TV (in Vidzeme), SIA Latgales Reģionālā Televīzija (in Latgale), and SIA Televīzijas Studija TV Spektrs (in Zemgale). The goal of the competition was to order news stories from the regions of Latvia for the public service remit of Latvian Television. The total amount of funding that will be made available to the winners of the competition is EUR 244,259. Regional TV news stories focus on the provinces of Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme and Latgale. The said funds will be used for the creation of 301 news stories, each 2 minutes long on the average.

Radio and Television Day

The NEPLP organized the annual Radio and Television Day – a media criticism and research conference, discussions, presentations, and handing out of the Celmlauzis (Trailblazer) awards for creative innovation in the work of the electronic mass media of Latvia. Live television LMT Straume took the award for the most notable innovation in television and radio in 2015 for developing an innovative media platform in Latvia for broadcasting live content.

NEPLP sets Latgale Electronic Media Program in motion

By announcing four competitions for the development of radio and TV programs in Latgale province, the NEPLP has set the Latgale Electronic Media Program in motion, the goal of which is to strengthen the information link between Latgale and the other parts of Latvia, and to achieve that Latvian residents residing near the eastern border of the country are informed about the developments in Latvia and the world. Latgale Media Program is a set of measures and activities based on the public service remit for public and commercial media, which includes technical solutions for improving broadcasting standards. In particular, the program focuses on supporting content generation at local radio stations, which in Latgale continue to be an important source of information and have substantial audiences. The NEPLP will divert a total of EUR 142,000 this year for the generation of content for regional and local radio and TV programs. The bulk of this amount is meant for consolidating the capacity of commercial radio stations in Latgale, creation of news, talk shows, and analytical broadcasts in the Latvian, Latgalian, and Russian languages. Latgale Electronic Media Program of the NEPLP also stipulates support for local and regional televisions, but full financing for this objective has not been allocated. In the meantime, EUR 155,000 will be invested this year in the development of a Latvian Radio studio in Rēzekne, the second largest city in Latgale. Taking into consideration the obvious presence of two distinctly different information spaces in Latgale, especially due to television programs of neighbor countries that can be easily picked up in the province, and the fact that residents are exposed to vastly different information and interpretations about national, international, economic, social and cultural developments, the LR studio will ensure that residents living near the border receive full information about the developments in Latvia and the world. The studio is a precondition for increasing the audience of the public media in Latgale, as well as for consolidation of the Latgalian identity and protection of the Latgalian language.

Amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law

On October 23, 2014 Saeima endorsed amendments to the Electronic Mass Media law, proposed by the NEPLP, which stipulated transition to radio broadcasting in one language – Latvian or a foreign language – for all radio programs in Latvia. The amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law applied to those broadcasting organizations that had been issued broadcasting permits stipulating certain proportions of program languages (for example, 30% in a foreign language, 70% in Latvian), and the main objective of which was to consolidate the status of the Latvian language and reduce the so-called “concealed” broadcasting, after it was established that not all broadcasting organizations were adhering to the language proportions stipulated in their permits.

Several Saeima members, without prior harmonization, submitted proposals regarding the amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law as the Saeima was to review them in the third reading (concerning provisions that dealt with transition to one language in radio programs of those companies whose permits stipulated a 50% / 50% proportion), which would significantly alter the original objective of the amendments. Saeima approved amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law in the third reading, including the proposals submitted by MPs. Following inquiries from several companies and government institutions, and taking into consideration the importance of the matter for the national interests of Latvia, the President of Latvia decided not to promulgate the amendments and returned the bill to the Saeima for a repeated review. After the legislation was repeatedly reviewed by the Saeima, the current version of the law theoretically permits several companies (if they wish so) to switch to broadcasting in a foreign language in 100% of their programs up until January 1, 2017 (which is different from the original objective of the amendments).