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Monday 17.02.2020 | Name days: Konstance, Donats

Exclusive | Kaimiņš: this will be the last national media council in Latvia’s history

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«There will not be a National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) any more. These are the last members of NEPLP because one board is no enough to keep track of content and money. This is why we need a completely new law that would divide everything fairly and form two separate structures,» said chairman of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Artuss Kaimiņš in an interview to BNN.

He said the committee is currently working on a completely new law – Electronic Mass Media Governance Law, which would «put an end to this particular function of NEPLP».

The law would ensure one structure is responsible for finances and the other would be responsible for content.

It will be called SEPLP – Public Electronic Mass Media Council. It would have to have a management specialist with experience of managing a team of at least 200 people, an economist and an erudite with knowledge of technology, says the deputy.

«An advisory council will be formed as well. It will have four to five representatives from Saeima factions, as well as representatives from non-government organizations.» According to the Saeima deputy, members of this council will not be paid wages, whereas the three aforementioned professionals would be provided wages to motivate them to work there.

Public media should leave the advertising market

Kaimiņš expects the Electronic Mass Media Governance Law to motivate public media to leave the advertising market.

As for why it is important and stressing that it would help create more objective news and secure greater editorial independence, Kaimiņš mentioned Zolitude tragedy. «I think public media had very little news about what was actually happening with the case even though court sessions were held every week.»

«I did some research, and I think Maxima was one of the biggest advertisers [for public media]. But all of Latvia knew the price of salmon and sausages! This is part of the reason why public media covered this tragedy so little.»

The funding for public media in Latvia is EUR 27.74 million a year. This amount is divided among television, radio and public media portal According to Kaimiņš, this amount is not enough. On top of that, the amount of state funding for media is the lowest among Baltic States.

«Fast loans» will not be allowed to advertise, which would cause a partial gap in finances for public media, says Kaimiņš.

Advertisement money should be compensated

«We need a mechanism for public media to recover this money.» One option proposed by the politician involves everyone paying for radio and/or television. He allows, however, that Latvia may not be prepared for something like that.

As the second option the deputy proposed allocated to public media a part of VAT. «Similarly how healthcare and defence sectors are provided with a part of VAT, the same could be done for the media sector.» The third option is simply allocating a bigger budget from the State Treasury.

Zaķusala office building, not Latvian Television

According to Kaimiņš, the next task to attend in the work of public media would be the premises in which Latvian Television and Latvijas Radio are located. «Latvian Television takes up the first and second floor of Zaķusala tower. The 21st floor is where the board and administration sit. Second to 20th floor is where companies – 80 sub-tenants – stay. This makes it sort of an office building, not Latvian Television

As an example for negative consequences of having many companies in Zaķusala, Kaimiņš mentions:

«At this rate we could see Russia Today broadcasting from Panorāma’s studio – anyone can enter if they want.»

«I think it should be a special security building, because it house our servers that hold Latvia’s public media information owned by Latvian society,» stresses the head of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee.

Kaimiņš also notes that Latvian Television spends one million euros every year on the building’s maintenance alone. «The building’s maintenance should be handed over to the state – State Real Estate. It would allow diverting this million to employee wages, for example.»

«The next step, I believe, should be changing the premises of Latvijas Radio. It is tradition, of course, but Radio should not be located in Riga’s most expensive building. On top of that, the building’s technical state is rather poor. On a scale of 0 to 10, I would give it 4.5. This means a considerable amount of investments is needed. This means Latvijas Radio needs to move elsewhere.»

The politician says «the Electronic Mass Media Governance Law would help sort these issues in the future». «All this needs to be taken into account. The law has been ready for a while. I have worked on it in the previous committee and the new – five years in total. Its implementation is a matter of political will. We need to decide as soon as possible that it is needed. I hope it could be adopted before the end of the year.»

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