LTV: Wide choice of Russian and Belarusian media on Latvian eastern border

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The supply of Russian and Belarusian media in the border area is increasing. This week, near the Latvian-Russian border, representatives of the Latvian State Radio and Television Center (LVRTC) concluded that the neighboring media offer is broader than the local, Latvian Television reported on December 2.

What can be seen more clearly on the television and which radio sounds better – Russian and Belarusian, or Latvian? This week, media representatives, supervisors and policymakers went to the Latvian eastern border area. According to LVRTC, for example, in 2020, 18 complaints about problems catching Latvian channels were recorded and in all cases, it turned out to be the problem of people not knowing how to install the antenna correctly or that it had deteriorated.

LVRTC Board Chairman Ģirts Ozoliņš said: “The signal for our free channels is a degree stronger than for neighboring channels, but neighboring countries' programs are certainly also perceptible.”

And their range is wide, with much more antenna-free Russian and Belarusian channels than the Latvian ones.

In the border village of Aizpurve, the broadcasting pole was installed three years ago, near the border of Latvia-Russia. It is true that not all Latvian Radio stations broadcast from it. There are two reasons for this: lack of free frequencies and lack of money to pay for an analog broadcasting service. In addition, the costs already in place have increased. In order to cover them, Latvian Radio is looking forward to State aid, said Jānis Siksnis, Chairman of the Council of Public Electronic Mass Media (SEPLP).

Siksnis said: “Of course, the priority is to hear the channel 1 [LTV1], where there are news, informative analytical broadcasts, and Latvian Radio 4, which is specifically for minorities, which Latgale has more of. But now we should aim to make the other Latvian Radio channels available freely."

Meanwhile, commercial radio's interest in broadcasting in Latgale has increased this year, according to the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP). Many have applied for free frequencies in Daugavpils and Rēzekne. Less populated areas have a lower interest. There, the supply of neighboring media is broad.

The head of the Ministry of Culture's Media Policy department Kristers Pļešakovs said: “If we are talking about linear broadcasting, which is perceptible with antennas in a relatively narrow band along the border, there is nothing we can do.”

NEPLP member Ieva Kalderauska said: "There has been speculation that we could somehow suppress these signals or raise walls. At the European level, as far as we know, nothing is being done, and I am also not convinced that we would be allowed to do so."

In the Ministry of Culture, there is still great hope for attempts to promote media literacy, in order for the public to be able to recognize lies or propaganda. This autumn, researchers at the University of Latvia went to 21 schools at the eastern border to teach young people how to recognize hate speech, how to verify the authenticity of images, and how “TikTok” algorithms work. In previous years, the state called on the media itself to provide funding separately. This year, there is no longer separate funding of media literacy.

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