Culture Ministry hopes Saeima will support withdrawal of public media from advertising market

  • 2019-08-15
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The Culture Ministry has expressed hope that the government and Saeima will support the planned withdrawal of the public media from the advertising market, stressing that this is a significant structural solution for the media environment, LETA was told at the ministry.

As reported, in order to solve the current problems at Latvian Radio and Latvian Television, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) is asking that more than EUR 10 million be allotted to the public media, as LETA learned from the council. The NEPLP's report submitted to the government offers several proposals to stabilize the situation at the public media, it also deals with the amounts of financing necessary to achieve that.

Aiga Grisane, head of the Culture Ministry’s media policy department, said that the ministry supports the public broadcasters’ exit from the advertising market as this is a significant solution aimed at strengthening the media environment. The Culture Ministry also wants the public media to be strengthened with proper financing.

“On June 20, 2018 amendments were passed to the Electronic Mass Media Law providing for the withdrawal of the public media from the advertising market as of January 1, 2021. In our prioritized funding requests, we argue for the necessity to provide the financing already in 2020, so that the public media can prepare for the exit from the advertising market, considering their content production cycle,” said Grisane.

Following the amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law, as of July 1 this year the public media have been completely banned from deriving income by airing commercials of lending businesses. In turn, amendments to the Electronic Media Law that were passed in June 2018 stipulate withdrawal of the public electronic media from the commercial advertising market, therefore prompting the advertising industry to switch to other platforms, explained the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP).

This legislation has led to significant changes in the distribution of the advertising market. In the light of the above, the Council also considers that urgent steps should be taken to ensure the provision of original content by the public media in the fall season this year.

The NEPLP is proposing that EUR 51,049 be allotted to Latvian Radio and EUR 259,223 to Latvian Television from the government's emergency funds for the purchase of studio equipment and to compensate for the decrease in the media's operating income. Furthermore, the NEPLP proposes that Latvian Radio should be allocated 129,046 and Latvian Television EUR 254,191 for content stabilization and provision of public service remit for the remainder of 2019.

In order to decisively solve the situation, the NEPLP suggests that Latvian Radio be given EUR 1.79 million and Latvian Television EUR 5,384,176 to compensate for their exit from the advertising market, and that EUR 989,000 be given to Latvian Radio and EUR 500,000 to Latvian Television to strengthen their capacities, plus EUR 1,604,133 be allotted for the public media's recreational programs.

As reported, Latvian Journalists' Association has turned to Saeima, claiming that NEPLP members be fired. The association is asking Saeima to assess NEPLP members' performance as soon as possible, as well as to introduce a new public media management system.

The Journalists' Association believes that the current NEPLP members are not competent and constructive enough to solve problems in the media environment. The NEPLP is in conflict with most national media and there are no indications that the conflict could be resolved.

The NEPLP has lost media organizations' confidence, the Journalists' Association says in the letter to Saeima, pointing out that there are questions about several NEPLP members' suitability. The association reminds that the NEPLP for no reason dismissed Latvian Television's board at end-2018, and points to other problems regarding the NEPLP.

NEPLP member Patriks Griva told LETA that the Journalist Association's letter was nothing new as "the association has been relentlessly criticizing the council's work and doing everything in its power to discredit it."