On Thursday, January 18, the debate on the unification of public media at the Saeima session reached its climax, and the draft law was supported by 75 MPs, with one against.
Amendments to the Law on Public Electronic Media and Their Management adopted by the Saeima provide for the merger of LTV and Latvijas Radio from January 1, 2025, and the name of the unified media will be Latvijas Sabiedriskas Medijs (Latvia Public Media). The internet portal LSM will also be folded into the unified entity.
Even after the merger, the chief editors of LTV and Latvijas Radio will continue to work as at present, until such time as the Public Electronic Media Council (SEPLP) elects a new chief editor of Latvian Public Media.
The merger of the media is planned in two stages: first, it is planned to combine financial and legal departments, and by 2026 to prepare the implementation of the final structure of the combined media entity.
Likewise, this year work will begin on the unified remuneration system for both media, which is currently different for LTV and Latvijas Radio, and the issue of the premises where the unified media will be located will still have to be resolved.
The total necessary funding for merging the two media into one company is 384,000 euros.
In the process of unification, public media will receive more funding in the future years, reaching 0.12% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2026. For 2024 spending on public media is planned to be 0.10% of GDP. The European average is 0.16% of GDP.
The head of SEPLP, Jānis Siksnis, commented on the merger saying: "The main thing is digital development. Traditional radio and television platforms were different and working differently, but nowadays, in general, public media should focus on creating digital content on Internet platforms. Of course, it is also important to solve infrastructure issues, which have accumulated for years and hung in the air with the merger or not: what will happen to the buildings, whether they will be repaired or built anew. Now finally these questions can be addressed. But the main thing is that the media environment has changed a lot in recent years and it is worthwhile to join forces. These years have proven that it would be expensive and inefficient to maintain two media systems at the same time."
Siksnis also said that he would not allow a "big and little brother situation" in financing matters and that the merger would be in the interests of both Latvian Radio and LTV.
The idea of merging Latvijas Radio and LTV was publicly aired in 2009, and at the beginning of 2013, the concept of Latvian Public Media was prepared, which planned to create the leading media in Latvia within five years by combining LTV, Latvijas Radio and internet platforms. However, the idea faced resistance from some parts of the public media workforce, and objections also arose in the political sphere, which saw the idea effectively put on hold for years.
In February 2022 the idea was revived when the supervisor of public media called for the merger of Latvian Radio and LTV. At the beginning of March 2023, the Saeima conceptually supported the notion but lenghty discussions and revisions still took place.
The total funding available for public media in 2024 is 47.64 million euros or 0.10% of projected GDP, rising in 2025 to 70.27 million euros (0.14% of GDP) when the merger will be taking place, and then falling back again in 2026 to 61.65 million euros ( 0.12% of GDP).