Fox television station has retracted its requirement to translate the station's original programming broadcast in the Baltic states according to guidelines developed in Russia, commercial television channel TV3 reported on Thursday.
The guidelines were retracted on Wednesday night before translators had begun using them, TV3 said.
Igors Djačenko, the Latvian head of translation services provider SDI Media, told TV3 that the company did not forward the guidelines to its translators, adding that Fox had retracted the requirement to use them.
SDI Media is not the only company to provide translation services for Fox programs, however, so the possibility remains that some other translators are following the Russian guidelines, according to the TV3 report.
BNS reported on Wednesday that Fox's original content was translated for Baltic audiences according to guidelines that had been developed in Russia and required glossing over certain topics considered sensitive by Russian censors.
The Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) said they had received a complaint from a viewer about the matter who noted that the translations of some Fox programs were inadequate; the council noted that this was the first they had heard of such translation guidelines.
NEPLP spokesperson Kalvis Gavars told BNS that Fox is a TV channel under Spanish jurisdiction and its programs are rebroadcast in Latvian territory, which means that translation issues must be addressed between the holder of the programs' rights and the translators. He added, however, that the quality of the translations is outside the NEPLP's area of competence.
Translators instructed to soften Russia-related language
According to a letter to the translators of Fox programs that was obtained by BNS, the translators were required to follow Russian subtitling guidelines which require the glossing over or "softening" of content concerning accidents, same-sex relationships, "anti-Russian propaganda," narcotics, extremist activities and suicides.
For instance, the translators were instructed to "soften" all negative language concerning the Russian military and space program and policies of the Russian president and government, while positive messages about same-sex relationships had to be generalized enough so they could be attributed to relationships of any kind.
The authors of the letter admitted that such an approach to translation could not be considered good practice, but said that Fox content comes to the Baltic states via Russia, which is why the subtitles had to be in line with Russian law.
"Of course, such softening of language can be seen as controversial and may not be in line with common practice, but it is required by law," the letter to the translators stated.
Anda Rožukalne, a media expert and associate professor at Riga Stradiņš University (RSU), said that Russia uses any channels and tools, including translation, to distort information wherever it can.
She admitted, however, that under current regulations, the NEPLP is unable to reverse an intermediary's requirements regarding the TV channel's content.
Editor: Aili Vahtla