COMPENDIUM CULTURAL POLICIES AND TRENDS IN EUROPE
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In 2013, a decision was taken to merge public broadcasters Latvian Television and Latvian Radio which will take 5 years and 60 million euro to complete.

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Latvia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.6 Media pluralism and content diversity

TV and Radio

There is one public TV organisation (Latvian Television) and one public radio (Latvian Radio) that are supervised by the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP). More than 20 commercial (private) TV companies and more than 40 commercial radio companies operate in Latvia. Cable TV and transnational satellite TV companies function as well.

Latvian Television is a non-profit making limited liability company that is owned by the state. About 60% of its financing comes from the national budget, while the rest must be earned by the television station itself through its activities and the sale of advertising. This is a regularly debated issue, as commercial TV companies argue it to be an unfair situation and they are even accusing public TV of price dumping in the advertisement market.

Table 2:     Public subsidy for Latvian Public TV, 2007-2011

Year

Subsidy, LVL

2007

8 359 727

2008

9 629 489

2009

8 357 102

2010

7 129 687

2011

7 019 687

2012

7 783 523

Source:     Diena, 1 July, 2011; Annual Reports of Latvian Public TV.

Share of the audience for Latvian public television is smaller than audience share for major commercial TV stations: in 2012, the audience share for public TV's 1st channel was 9.2%, for the 2nd channel 4.1%, while for the major commercial TV stations, LNT had 11.1% and TV3 had 13.8% share(source: TNS Latvia).

At the same time, the audience numbers for the cultural programme "100 g kultūras" (1st channel of public TV) is growing. It is broadcast four times per week. Data from the study on culture consumption in 2009 (available in Latvian, pdf) shows that watching the culture programme on public TV is one of the most popular cultural activities among inhabitants (46% of respondents have seen it at least once per year). Only book reading and visits to open air events are more popular. Five times per week cultural news id broadcast on the first channel of public TV.

An annual contract between the public broadcasting companies and the National Electronic Mass Media Council stipulates the public remit. This document stipulates that Latvian TV will transmit cultural broadcasts for 322 hours in 2010, 347 hours in 2011 and 489 hours in 2012.

In 2013, a decision to develop public service broadcasting in Latvia (merging public broadcasters Latvian Television and Latvian Radio) has been taken by the National Electronic Mass Media Council. It will require 5 years (until 2018) and about 42 million LVL (60 million EUR) investment. Find more information here.

Policy and legislation

The new Electronic Mass Media Law was adopted in 2010. The previous Law on Radio and Television (1995) was outdated and not in accordance with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

This law has been heavily debated both in society and in the Parliament. Only its revised version was enforced by the President. The law has been criticised because it does not ensure political and economic independence of public media, and transparency in administering public media.

Also, the requirements for the use of the official language (Latvian) in media were broadly discussed. The law stipulates that the national and regional electronic mass media shall ensure that in the programmes produced by them, at least 65% of all broadcasts, except for the commercials, are in the official language. Moreover, the national and also regional electronic mass media shall ensure that in the television programmes produced by them, at least 40% of the transmission time of European audiovisual works (European audiovisual works altogether should be at least 51% of the weekly transmission time), except for news, sports events, games, and commercials, is reserved for audiovisual works in the Latvian language.

In 2012, a working group was established by the National Electronic Mass Media Council to elaborate amendments to the law. The main problems are discussed in the National Strategy of Electronic Mass Media 2012-2017 (adopted in 2012, available in Latvian).

Anti-trust measures to prevent media concentration are stipulated by the Competition Law (in force since 2002, latest amendments in 2013) and the Electronic Mass Media Law (2010). The Electronic Mass Media Law stipulates that abuse of a dominant position of an electronic mass medium is prohibited. Within the meaning of this Law, the position when the market share of an electronic mass medium in Latvia in a particular market exceeds 35% shall be considered as a dominant position. The purpose of the Competition Law is to protect, maintain and develop free, fair and equal competition in the interests of the public in all economic sectors by restricting market concentration.

Printed media

Several factors have aggravated the situation of printed media lately. Firstly, economic crisis has left an impact on consumption patterns. Many long-time subscribers are giving up their newspaper and magazine subscriptions, as well as choosing not to buy press from a news-stand. Between 2009 and 2011, the readership has decreased in particular for newspapers (by about 10%), while for monthly magazines it has not changed significantly (see Study on Audience of Printed Media by TNS in Latvian).

Secondly, advertising revenues across all media have dropped by 46% in 2009 (if compared to 2008) reaching a drop of 57% in newspapers (see more detailed data of the Latvian Advertising Association in the presentation on advertising market volume in Latvian mass media in 2009 (in Latvian). See also the website of TNS Latvia). Thirdly, internet usage has continued to grow. In 2008, 57% of individuals used the internet regularly (at least once a week), in 2012, the number of internet users has grown to 70% (source: Central Statistical Bureau).

Fourthly, the changes in VAT increased the costs of the printed media (see chapter 5.1.5).

The combination of a dramatic drop in revenues and aggravated changes in media consumption habits has led to deep transformations in the print media market, the most shattering event in 2009 being the departure of the Bonnier Group, a major foreign investor and the owner of the main daily Diena and its businesses (Dienas Mediji) – a printing house, several regional newspapers, a newspaper distribution company and a magazine division. In 2010, the owners of the largest Russian daily "Telegraf" have changed as well.

The influence of oligarchs and consequent self-censorship of journalists have been widely discussed.

Also, the situation with the printed cultural press has been complicated. In 2011, the only cultural weekly "Kultūras Forums" ceased to be published. However, at the end of 2011, the Ministry of Culture announced a competition and assigned a public subsidy for publishing cultural content in dailies. Because of a significant decrease of the budget of the State Culture Capital Foundation (see chapter 2.1), many of the cultural magazines ceased to be published in 2010 or in 2011. Some of them are to be continued in electronic format.

Also, new electronic media have appeared. Examples include the visual arts portal and magazine Studija, the photography portal Foto Kvartāls, the music magazine Mūzikas Saule, a portal on architecture A4D, a literature and philosophy portal ¼ Satori, thecontemporary literature and philosophy journal Punctum; theatre portal Kroders.lv, portal on cultural policy Culturelab, literature magazine Latvju Teksti andLatvian Literature(in English), cultural newspaper of Latgale region http://www.lakuga.lv/. A new website Arterritory.com has been launched on Baltic, Scandinavian, and Russian art and culture in Latvian, Russian, and English. FOLD promotes the best in Latvian and foreign creative industries.

Until 2009, the State Culture Capital Foundation was the main supporter of cultural broadcasts and cultural publications in the printed media in Latvia. It had the following support programmes: Cultural broadcasts on Latvian TV (2007: LVL 100 000; 2008: LVL 80 000); and Documentation and publications in visual arts (2007: LVL 40 000). Support for cultural periodicals in 2007 was LVL 508 017; in 2008 – LVL 560 000. Since 2009 every decision about financial support to cultural publications was thoroughly debated among experts as of limited financial resources.

See the study of the Open Society Institute about the impact of the financial crisis on media and news delivery to citizens in 18 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States: "Footprint of Financial Crisis in the Media" and Latvia country report.


Chapitre publié: 08-10-2014

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