Public should have been better informed during Latvian Radio emergency, says regulator

Public media broadcaster Latvian Radio should have better informed its listeners about the suspension of its broadcasts in connection with smoke appearing at its headquarters in Rīga, the Public Electronic Media Council (SEPLP) said after evaluating the actions of the broadcaster during the emergency.

SEPLP said in a statement to the media that it has established that on Friday, January 5, due to smoke in the Latvian Radio building at Doma Square 8, central Rīga, live broadcasts of Latvian Radio were not provided for several hours, though repeats ensured there was not completely dead air.

Information about the incident was spread on social media and other media, SEPLP explained. However, in such a situation, the actions of the radio were not sufficiently thought-out as there should have been on-air announcements about the incident, SEPLP stated.   

Una Klapkalne, chairman of the board of Latvijas Radio, said: "We are aware that in the current geopolitical conditions, interruptions of the usual programming can cause residents' anxiety. And even though current information about the nature of the incident was available in almost all media and social networks, part of our loyal listeners' news in the digital environment or other is not consumed in the media. We sincerely apologize to our listeners for this. I would like to emphasize that Latvian Radio has a clear action plan, including a business continuity plan for serious emergency situations related to threats to national security, natural disasters and other cases when it is not possible to broadcast from Radio House. In emergency situations, alternative broadcasting is provided. However, smoke in the Latvian Radio building is not a national emergency."

The Council has agreed with Latvian Radio to review the internal regulatory framework, conduct a risk assessment, review crisis management procedures and supplement action algorithms for informing the public also in case of incidents of local importance. It is also necessary to re-train employees, and organize practical training, including the activation of a crisis communication plan.

Public media ombudsman Anda Rožukalne stated:

"I think that a reasonable decision is to give the [Latvijas Radio] board an opportunity to learn and create some new models of action for a new situation, and draw conclusions... The board has taken care of the safety of the employees, both to prevent the consequences of this accident with smoke and fire, and also to inform the public. Of course, after what happened, you can figure out how to do it better."

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