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Banned Russian TV channels should be substituted, says media expert

Banning Russian television channels in Latvia could lead to dissatisfaction as many TV viewers will have their habits interrupted, Rīga Stradiņš University professor, media expert Anda Rožukalne told Latvian Radio February 10.

The National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) has just decided to exclude 16 programs from the list of transmission in Latvia due to problems in the handling of documents. Previously, NEPLP decided to ban the retransmission of “Rossia RTR” on the territory of Latvia for a year, and this decision is related to hate speech. Similarly, due to uncertainties about the rights of TV channel representation and concerns about non-compliance with the sanctions regime, the telecommunications company, Tet, stopped retransmission of several Russian channels, replacing them with other equivalent TV channels.

"It could have social-political consequences, since it means several hundred thousand viewers' habits are interrupted.

"Part of these viewers do not have a very broad spectrum of media usage, television is still very important, and among these [banned channels] are some of the most popular in Latvia. So from the perspective of the audience, it could cause a lot of annoyance and inconvenience. You want to rest, you want to watch your favorite show, but you can't watch it," Rožukalne said.

She noted that advertisers will also have problems  because they'll have to think about how to address that part of the audience now.

"It is also an opportunity to offer alternatives," Rožukalne said. She said that there are many entertaining channels among the banned Russian TV channels, but there are many others – possibly around 100 channels – in different genres. The biggest issue is the channels with newest information broadcasting.

Rožukalne said it appeared that commercial channels had already offered alternatives to replace the missing TV channels.

"But I think public television should also make a specific offer, should point out these news and broadcasts that are already in the program."

In her opinion, it is also a good opportunity to remind the public of the Russian language news of Deutsche Welle, Euronews and other foreign channels.

"I think it is a problem, precisely the fact that the public needs a variety of information and that there are a number of solutions that could overcome the issue," the media expert said.

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