Finance Ministry frowns at plan for state Russian-language channel

Finance Minister Jānis Reirs (Unity) came out against the idea for a new Russian-language media channel under the auspices of Latvian public television company LTV in an interview with daily newspaper Latvijas avīze Monday.

“Our neighboring country’s and our own desire to create these new television channels looks like a squandering. If we listen to the experts it’s clear that at least five years are needed to get such a channel up to par. It will be too late by then. Taking into account the private media, the nation has a very good television and radio infrastructure. It would be logical to buy the content from the privately-held media,” the Finance Minister argued.

He went on to criticize the emerging plan for its lavish and wasteful plans. “It doesn’t seem to matter how many studios and how much equipment has been procured already, once again we’re looking at another generous vision of buying more new gear,” Reirs said.

“The ministry will not support such an initiative. We’ve allotted resources for disseminating information to our loyal Latvian media. LTV’s (Russian-language) Channel 7 already has money granted to it, so we must invest in the content offerings of these media, not purchase more equipment. We’ll never be able to invest in our media like Russia does. Unless perhaps it’s possible to create a common competitive media group at the European level,” he suggested.

On March 19 the parliament-appointed advisory National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) ruled that the state-owned limited liability company Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) should begin work on creating a third Russian-language public media channel.

Since then, the media have reported on Estonia’s accelerated progress towards establishing a similar Russian-language public media program for its ethnic Russian minority, with Latvia’s public media custodians looking toward models of bilateral cooperation with the northern neighbor.

However, independent commercial television company TV3 news program Nekā personīga reported Sunday that the NEPLP budget estimates for the costs of creating such a channel are almost twice the level of Estonia’s projections. For the first year the NEPLP guesses that €3 million will be required, with €5.3 million and €5.6 million in subsequent years, while in Estonia the initial set-up costs are €2.5 million, with €4 million required each following year.

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