Broadcast watchdog fires Latvian Radio board member

Latvia's broadcast watchdog, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) has expressed non-confidence against Latvian Radio board member Sigita Roķe. Her removal became effective September 28. 

Roķe was the latest of Latvian Radio board members to be dismissed with previous head Aldis Pauliņš and board member Uldis Lavrinovičs fired earlier this year. 

A competition is being held to fill the vacancies, with two new board members to be instated at Latvian Radio on October 2. 

"I can say that all the candidates have corresponding skills, as well as experience in both management and finance. I think it's important that all the candidates have experience in media management as well," said NEPLP board member Patriks Grīva.

For the moment, Latvian Radio will be lead by finance director Juris Gavars.

NEPLP members accused Latvian Radio of selling content and claimed wage discrepancies were uncovered during several audits. Ivars Āboliņš said that each audit had lead to "worrying and shocking revelations". He also blamed the radio for failing to put a €200,000 multi-media studio into operation.

Meanwhile Roķe speculated the decision may have political overtones. "We've been harassed with different requests every other day. We've submitted about 10,000 documents to the council... I think this is a logical result, and we can of course listen to what's being said on the sidelines about different types of political pressure [being applied to Latvian Radio]," said Roķe. 

Media expert Rolands Tjarve told Latvian Radio that the battle between NEPLP and Latvian Radio management shows three problem areas.

The first is the fact that public media have to attract sponsors, he said. It causes mistrust and a basis to suspect of journalists being influenced by sponsors buying content, however Tjarve said he doesn't believe that this may have happened. Secondly there's the matter of the small wages and lastly the long-running feud between NEPLP and the management of Latvian Radio, which had escalated during the previous months. 

In July Latvian Radio presenters joined into an unusual collective action, in what they said was a move to defend the editorial integrity and independence of public media. They produced a video in which they strongly criticized two NEPLP members, specifically Ivars Abolins and Gunta Lidaka, who had spoken of a "dramatic scene" in the administration of public radio and suggested sweeping changes need to be made to remedy allegedly poor management and politically-influenced figures.

The new management will face the struggle of managing a workforce that may be less than eager to serve them seeing as the new board will be appointed by NEPLP.

Roķe was appointed to the Latvian Radio board in January 2015, where she was in charge of programming. She served as the sole board member from March to August 2017 when Gavars was also elected as a temporary board member.

NEPLP is the institution that represents the public interest in the field of electronic mass media.

LSM English is part of the same umbrella public service organization as Latvian Radio and Latvian TV.

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