Latvian public broadcaster also facing uncertain future ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Latvia's LTV website.
Latvia's LTV website. Source: ltv.lsm.lv/lv/

Public broadcaster ERR is not alone in having been the subject of recent political attacks. Latvia's public broadcaster, LSM, remains in a state of uncertainty as well, according to a broadcast on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Whereas ERR faced criticism for its operation from within its own supervisory council, criticism in turn met by widespread protest at one particular political party in Estonia, in the Latvian case, it is the workings of LSM's regulatory board itself, the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP), which has been the focus of outcry, ERR's online Estonian news reports

Additionally, a bill in progress at the Saeima, the Latvian parliament, would change the funding and governance of both television and radio arms of LSM.

Timeline

At the end of last year, two Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) executives were released by the NEPLP, for reasons connected with finance. However, it later transpired that no laws had been broken, simply that some new TV equipment had cost more than budgeted.

Two replacements were chosen in April by the electronic media council, Einars Giels, a management consultant and analyst at Olainfarm pharmaceuticals company, and Eva Juhņēviča , director of Latvia's song festival.

The appointment of Giels in particular was met with protest from journalists, given his lack of media work experience, and both the new appointees stepped down from their roles before even taking them up.

Giels and Juhņēviča were not replaced, and the one remaining board member, Ivars Priede, continued solo.

"The Latvian journalistic community gave their strong support to this – not only at the public broadcaster, but also from competing commercial TV channels, and other journalists," said TV journalist Ivo Leitans.

While the prosecutor's office in Latvia found no irregularities in how the hiring of Giels and Juhnevica was carried out, widespread belief that the pair were not the best choices for the roles have led to political pressure to remove the NEPLP head, Dace Kezbere.

The Latvian Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers is himself currently the subject of no-confidence scrutiny on the issue of not taking a hard line on money laundering, according to LSM's English news portal.

Political reaction

"Am I happy with the state of affairs? Of course not," Vita Anda Tērauda, chair of the Saeima's media committee said.

"We have a crisis in confidence in the supervision of the public media. We are insufficiently funded. Our public media is kept in two separate legal entities – with discrete radio and TV organizations – and a public media unable to keep up with the times and develop digital platforms," Tērauda continued.

The public media bill currently at the Saeima originated with the previous coalition. Whilst it passed its first reading, the current four-party coalition, which took office in January, wants to make some alterations to the bill, according to the ETV report, which is here (in Estonian).

Olukorrast riigis

Estonia's separate TV and radio public broadcasting bodies were merged in 2007, initiated by the broadcasting act of the same year, which formed ERR. The broadcasting supervisory authority which oversees ERR is made up of a representative of each party represented at the Riigikogu (currently five), plus three independent experts.

In April, the representative from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Mart Helme, remarked that radio and TV journalists working at ERR who displayed bias, ought to be removed from the airwaves. While Helme named no names at the time, Ahto Lobjakas, presenter of weekly politics discussion show "Olukorrast riigis" (English: "situation in the state") went on to announce he would step down in June, in preference to having to exert self-censorship. Helme has since been replaced by Urmas Reitelman as EKRE supervisory council representative.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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