Aizliegtais paņēmiens

Aizliegtais paņēmiens. Ko ēd Latvija?

Aizliegtais paņēmiens

Aizliegtais paņēmiens. Naudas mūļi

Aizliegtais paņēmiens. Ekskursija Latvijas Televīzijā

What to do with run-down Latvian Television building?

The Latvian Television building in Zaķusala, Rīga, which was built in Soviet times, is, on the one hand, a strategic object of national importance, and on the other hand, a huge eyesore. Latvian Television's broadcast 'Forbidden Method' (Aizliegtais paņēmiens, AP), aired December 4, went on a tour of the building exploring its many shortcomings and it as a visualization of politicians' indecisiveness.

Renovating the building would take at least €66 million. Meanwhile, the concept of a joint public service media, combining Latvian Television and Latvian Radio, as well as LSM, envisages four options for future use of the building, but the final political decision has still not been taken.

The construction of the 22-story-high LTV building in Zaķusala began in 1979. Chief architect was Andris Purviņš. The construction of the 370-meter-tall television tower was completed in 1984, but the LTV building was ready in 1986, and without waiting for its commissioning, there was already the first livestream from the new big TV studio in December 1985 - an audience's 'song of choice' concert “Mikrofona aptauja.”

it should be added that, initially, a radio house – even higher – was to be built alongside the television building. Obviously it was never built and Latvian Radio (LR) is still in Doma Square in the old town.

LTV now uses only the first four floors of the building, which houses both studios and offices, as well as the last four floors, where the administration, accounting, HR, and management are located. The rest of the premises have been rented out to firms of different profiles with no connection to television.

The building is in a sad condition.

“What's in the basement is still much worse than it can be seen walking around the building. For example, if you saw what the water pipes, the heat supply pipes look like – they have corroded and are holding on to nothing more than a promise. And power supplies are 1985, circuit breakers are 1985 as well, and development is 1977,” Normunds Beķeris, head of LTV's electricity division, said.

The last technical survey of the LTV building took place in 2017. It concludes that no significant deficiencies (defects and damage) have been identified in the main building structures which could pose a real threat to the safety of the building.  The foundation and base also provide sufficient load-bearing capacity for the building.

However, specialists have concluded that due to various factors, the depreciation or deterioration of the building structures is 35% (against a new structure), while for building engineering communications – 60%.

"It's pretty crappy, but this is not the first year, you get used to it," said LTV board chairman Ivars Priede.

Currently one of the planned bigger capital investments is a modernized ventilation system, which would cost about EUR 600 thousand. "There will be less electricity consumption. Some facilities are 50 years old," Priede said.

Overall, it is planned to spend EUR 1.8 million on maintenance of the building, which is a proportion of 7% out of the planned television budget of approximately EUR 26 million this year, mainly consisting of a grant from the State budget, but also includes tenants' money. 

While the LTV building is too large for a collective of about 500 people, television needs far more studios. “The building was put into service in the eighties, then there were other needs, staff numbers were much higher, while production capacity at studio level was lower,” explained Priede.

But overall, replanning and renovating the building to build the necessary studios and also to build a modern parking space in the building's basements, for example, would cost at least €66 million. These estimates have been made by the Office of Architects “ER3” at the order of the Public Electronic Media Council (SEPLP). The architect Elīna Rožlapa pointed out that these amounts were estimated even before the war in Ukraine, which started to increase considerably, including construction costs. In addition, these costs do not include hardware or technology expenditures.

Taking into account the current budget of LTV, all television work should be turned off for about three years to renovate the building.

What to do about this huge eyesore? Latvian politicians have been dealing with this issue since 2005 when it was already recognized that the existing building does not really work for television. The possible locations of the new complex were even searched for, but without tangible results. After the economic crisis in 2012, Valdis Dombrovskis' government took up this issue again, but then there was not the new building at the forefront, but a legal merger of Latvian Radio (LR) and LTV. And it's still being talked about. This week the Saeima plans to decide on social media unification at the second reading.

United means that the management of these media is combined, including the budget in the future, which is also expected to be significantly higher. In 2027, it is planned to align it with the average in Europe – 0.16% of gross domestic product (GDP). Consequently, Latvia's public media budget should increase to EUR 54.8 million.

For the building, the SEPLP concept offers four options:

  • Both media remain where they are right now. That means hefty investment in the television building, at least €66 million.
  • A new building, the price of which the Architects Office's ER3 estimates would cost around €150 million.
  • Latvian Radio moves from Doma Square to the Zaķusala building, which requires huge investments.
  • A new building for television, which partly includes Latvian  Radio but the radio remains mainly in Doma Square. So a new building too, over €150 million.

“Ideally, a completely new, unified building would be the best option, in which, by design, all that is necessary for the television, radio, and internet version can be anticipated,” said Jānis Siksnis, head of SEPLP.

One question is where to take money, but the other, and it has always been a partial wedge in this whole process – whether Latvijas Radio's 300-person collective would be very willing to leave their building in Doma Square.

Siksnis also admitted that Doma Square is an extremely valuable place, so it would be worth looking at another variant: “The new building is definitely being built for LTV, and it also immediately envisages some wing or some part where part of Latvian Radio moves to.”

“The worst part is what we don't like, that we still haven't got a final decision made, what in the end we're going to do [with media unification],” the head of SEPLP said at the end of the conversation.

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