Latvian Competition Council (CC) has allowed the media group MTG Broadcasting (MTG) to take over the Latvian TV channels Latvijas Neatkariga televizija (LNT) and TV5, according to unofficial information, confirmed by several independent sources.
However, the CC has put forth stringent conditions that are not disclosed yet, so it is not clear whether MTG has agreed to them. The media group, which already manages television channels as TV3, TV6 and others, has not yet been officially informed about the decision.
The only thing the CC officials reveal is that some decision has indeed been taken and it will be announced within two weeks. Asked whether the decision is positive, CC Chairman Dzintars Striks says: “I can neither confirm, nor deny any information, but the result will be very interesting.”
According to informal sources, the permission might be granted for a period of five years. Then it would again be revised. Besides, the permission could be cancelled during these five years, if MTG failed to meet the required conditions, for example, concerning the advertising market.
During the decision-making process, it was proposed not to combine the two structures. But MTG did not agree to that, as it would not allow to save at the expense of a merger.
The National Council of Electronic Mass Media (NCEMM) had indicated previously that it had no objections to the transaction as long as LNT and TV3 remained in free terrestrial broadcasting. The Council stressed that it was crucial for the channels to stick to independent editorials and keep providing original content.
Also, NCEMM wants advertisers to purchase advertising on each channel separately. Namely, they cannot come in a multi-channel package, set as a precondition for a “better” price.
Similarly, NCEMM believes that MTG has to submit a report on Latvian-based content included in their programs. It is pointed out that this should be done on a regular basis – at least once a quarter. The data could be provided by some independent media market research agency, for example, TNS Latvia. In addition, the NCEMM also wants MTG to have its own Ombudsman, funded by the media group itself, to keep track of the diversity of the views.
After the merger, MTG would manage the televison channels LNT, TV3, TV5, TV6, K2, 3+, a number of satellite programmes, as well as the radio station Star FM.
Previously, several experts pointed out that the merger should not be allowed, as it would result in a monopoly.