RIGA - The Latvian prime minister has tasked Transport Minister Kaspars Gerhards with deciding whether or not to merge the Latvian State Radio with Latvian State Television.
After meeting with heads of the European Broadcasting Union, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis also discussed the idea of lowering taxes for public media.
The prime minister said the merger would allow the government to further cut administrative expenses.
"Meeting with the prime minister was very valuable 's for almost one hour we discussed issues concerning public media. The visit of the EBU chief executives in Latvia is remarkable because they have arrived to share with us other countries' experience, which will allow us to get out of these problems together," said Abrams Kleckins, the Latvian National Broadcasting Council chairman.
The European Broadcasting Union is now drawing up proposals for short and long term solutions for the radio and television financial problems, to be presented in late May.
Jean Reveillon, director of the European Broadcasting Union said he understood that Latvia has a serious financial situation, but that it was important to keep public media operational.
The director of Latvian Radio, Dzintris Kolats, said he agreed with the prime minister and that bankruptcy is not an option. Kolats said he thought all groups were in favor of the merger.
Arnis Kupriss, a representative of Latvian Public Television, said a task force will be formed as a result of the meeting to formulate an action plan for the future.
Another solution suggested by the EBU is introducing subscription fees for users of radio and television services. EBU Television director Bjorn Erichsen said that a small fee of 3 euros (2 lats) per month would allow the media to be more independent from the state budget.
Latvian Radio Director Kolats said, however, that Latvia had thrice tried unsuccessfully to introduce the idea of fees for radio and television media. He said despite the previous failed attempts he was not opposed to giving it another try.
Kolats said if the subscription fees are not introduced, politicians will be forced to find other solutions, such as merging media groups.
"Merger of the public media organizations is a logical solution, and year 2011 is a realistic deadline for it," Kolats said.
LTV is 60 percent funded by the state of Latvia and began broadcasting in 1954. The company joined the EBU along with Latvian Radio in 1993.