Latvia’s Culture Ministry has submitted a draft to be reviewed at the state secretaries meeting. This draft details amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law, which have been developed to solve the problem of provision of illegal television services on the Internet.
The draft suggests providing the National Electronic Mass Media Council with authority to act against service providers that do not have a special permit to provide television services. The draft also provides the council with specific supervisory rights as detailed in the Law on Information Society Services, as BNN was told by the ministry.
According to the report ‘On proposals for improvements of supervision over television service providers’ (viewed at the 15 December 2015 meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers), the volume of illegal television services reaches at least 15 – 20% of the entire television market in the country. The study performed by Dr. Arnis Sauka, Stockholm School of Economics in Riga and BASE association states that at least 100,000 households use illegal television services. Considering that there are approximately 803,800 households in Latvia and 88% or 707,344 of them legally or illegally use paid television services, it can be concluded that at least 14% of the television market consists of illegal television services.
To begin work on solutions for the illegal television services problem, Culture Minister Dace Melnbarde has formed a work group that consists of representatives from electronic communications industry and state institutions. This work group has concluded that the matter of combating illegal television services on the Internet is much more expansive than the National Electronic Mass Media Council’s authority. This area includes copyrights, unlicensed commercial activity, tax avoidance and other illegal activities. The work group agreed that the council, State Police, State Revenue Service and other competent institutions should unite and turn against private and legal persons who are engaged in this illegal business in Latvia. In the majority of cases existing regulations can provide sufficient supervision. At the same time, institutions lack the resources to perform proper monitoring of the market situation. In addition, the work group agreed that it is necessary to develop new rules to keep up with the times and the development of modern technologies. It is expected that new rules will replace the existing Law on Electronic Mass Media and the Law on the Press and Other Mass Media.
It is mentioned in the draft that any restriction in relation to television services should be viewed from the point of view of fundamental principles of freedom of speech, democracy and rule of law. Any restriction of the freedom speech should be within the borders of the law, comply with a legitimate goal and be proportionate, as noted by the ministry.