Russian-language track to disappear from TV in Latvia

As of May 1, amendments to the Electronic Media Law will enter into force, which essentially provide that Russian language audio tracks will disappear from television, Latvian Radio reported on April 28.

The law amendments provide that TV channel distribution service providers which offer programs with a language audio track in a language outside the official languages of the European Union (EU) Member States or European Economic Area countries, including Russian, to provide a language track in the official state language (Latvian).

Law amendments were adopted with the aim of strengthening Latvia's belonging of the Western European cultural space, as well as protecting national security interests. The amendments concern both producers of TV program content, their owners, and their suppliers and distributors.

The requirements provide that, by May 1, if a language track is not provided in the official language, suppliers may only distribute the program with a track in one of the official languages of the EU.

The situation was commented on by the media expert, Dr. Gunta Līdaka of Rīga Stradiņš University:

"Of course, this decision will diminish, especially for the Russian audience, but also for the Latvian audience, the opportunity to watch various foreign broadcasts and channels. We estimate that this audience size could be 25% to 30%.

"And of course, it reduces the diversity of content in the Latvian media space, it will contribute to increasing piracy in the Latvian media environment, which will also make it difficult to reach the audience. This decision has not been sufficiently weighted and analyzed by the industry. In fact, this decision will affect an older audience who will not be able to switch to English or other EU languages. This decision was taken very quickly, with a rather high degree of secrecy based on safety concerns. Although we know that this decision does not affect Russian channels or Kremlin content. This decision deals with the programs of the Western countries, knowledgeable, educational, entertaining. These are English and American channels that have nothing to do with Russian ideology."

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