RIGA - Following Estonia’s creation of a new publicly funded news channel in Russian, Latvian State Television (LTV) has announced that is working on a Russian-language news channel of its own, created in cooperation with Estonia in a bid to reach out to its Russian-speaking minority.
LTV’s Channel 3 (LTV3) will be similar to the Latvian-language LTV1, the television’s head Ivars Belte told LETA. The programmes for the new channel would be created by Russian-speaking journalists and producers who know the interests and problems of Russian-speakers in Latvia very well.
The channel could also be active on social networks to communicate with younger viewers.
Given that Latvia and Estonia have practically the same opinion about the new initiative, active cooperation is under way with Estonian experts.
According to Belte, Latvia and Estonia could develop a joint brand for the new channel, as well as work together on the channel’s image and values. The new channels in Latvia and Estonia will have the same design, which will enable the countries to share the design costs.
Latvia and Estonia will also participate in joint procurement tenders and in generating content for the new channels - for instance, children’s broadcasts, said Belte.
Commenting on LTV’s estimates of the cost of the new channel, Belte said that specific amounts would only be presented to the public after the channel’s concept has been approved by the Electronic Mass Media Council. After that, a political decision will be made about whether to allot funding to the channel, and how much. LTV’s estimates are similar to those of Estonia, Belte added.
He emphasised nevertheless that LTV will want no part in the creation of a new TV channel if it is offered less money than it needs. LTV has a set of quality standards and a vision that the channel does not want to compromise.
The concept for the new TV channel could be submitted to the Electronic Mass Media Council in the coming weeks, said Belte, but he declined to comment how long the development of the new channel could take. There has been much criticism about the project and LTV is waiting for politicians to offer their proposals regarding what should be taken into consideration during the work on the concept, but no such proposals have been received thus far.
LTV3 will supplement LTV1 and LTV7, and it is scheduled to debut in mid-2016.
The channel’s content will be presented in the Russian language and it will be broadcast in the entire territory of Latvia. It was also reported that there will be specific content for the residents of the region of Latgale.
6 million in its first year?
However, the establishment of an LTV channel in Russian could cost up to 6 million in its first year, according to the TV3 show Neka Personiga.
Though LTV is refusing to reveal any specific sums until the concept has been approved by the National Electronic Mass Media Council, Neka Personiga has found out that, according to the Council’s estimate, the state will be requested to cover 3 million euros in 2016, 5.3 euros in 2017, and 5.6 euros in 2018.
Due to these large sums, several ministers are questioning the idea of a third LTV channel, Neka Personiga reported. Furthermore, an alternative channel should be made available in Russian sooner than in 2016.
Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss believes that instead of simply commissioning a TV channel in Russian, there should be an open tender in order to pick out the best ideas and synergies, also taking into account the local factors. When asked how he plans to “pressure” the National Electronic Mass Media Council, given that it only has one proposal - a new channel, the minister said that the matter should be further discussed.
Meanwhile, Culture Minister Dace Melbarde says: “I hope that the Council, having made only one proposal, will leave, contemplate, and return with several scenarios. This discussion clearly demonstrated that we need to work on several scenarios, as we must reach the local audience in Latgale province in a fast and efficient manner.”
Finance minister not convinced
However, the Finance Ministry does not support the idea of a new LTV channel in Russian, Finance Minister Janis Reirs said in an interview with the newspaper Latvijas Avize.
“Both our and Estonia’s wish to establish new television channels seems like a waste of money. If we actually listen to experts, such as Professor Anda Rozukalne, it is clear that we will need at least five years to have such a channel of decent quality. It will be too late then. With the presence of the private media, the country already has a good television and radio infrastructure. It would be logical to buy content from private entities,” Reirs explained.
Regardless of the number of studios and technical equipment in the country, for some reason, more “hardware” is needed, notes Reirs. “The Finance Ministry will not support such an initiative. We have already allocated funds to the existing channels that are loyal to Latvia. LTV7, too, has received funding, which is why, instead of buying additional equipment, we should invest in content. We will be never able to invest in media like Russia does, unless we establish a joint and competitive medium on European level.”
As reported, the National Electronic Mass Media Council decided on March 19 to approve the establishment of a Latvian Television channel in Russian, the Council informed LETA.
The channel is to be established in collaboration with Estonia. The estimated costs will be similar to Estonia’s calculated costs. Neka Personiga found out that, according to the National Electronic Mass Media Council’s cost estimates, the state will be requested to cover 3 million euros as of 2016, 5.3 million euros in 2017, and 5.6 million euros in 2018. This is significantly more than Estonia’s cost estimates, which are 2.5 million euros for 2015 and 4 million euros for the years to come. The official cost estimates have not yet been revealed, as the channel’s concept is still in development.