Russian TV channel 'has to be created' says minister

There is strong support for the creation of a new European television channel that would broadcast in Russian, but no consensus on what form it should take, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told journalists after a meeting with Saeima deputies on Wednesday.

Rinkevics met with the nationalist conservative National Alliance faction in the Latvian parliament to explain why Latvia was not named alongside the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Estonia and Denmark in a recent call for a channel to counter Russian state propaganda.

Rinkevics told the MPs that although all EU member states agreed that the Russian-language TV channel was necessary they were divided on the plan's details.

"There is a unanimous position that the channel has to be created. But when it comes to discussing details, how this channel should be created, opinions become much more subtle.

"Basically, there are concerns that this will be simple counter-propaganda, even though we say that this should be an impartial news channel.

"We do not want to make just another Euronews-type channel that only broadcasts news. If we want to attract the audience the channel also needs entertaining content in addition to the news and debates," said Rinkevics.

Commenting Latvia's decision against joining the four countries' initiative, Rinkevics said: "As the [EU] presidency, we decided to promote this idea as our priority, not a political declaration which then disappears somewhere... The question is whether we try to implement these ideas in practice and shore up countries' support, or make a nice political declaration to look good... I already felt that some countries had differing opinions about what exactly should be done."

In December 2014, Rinkevics said that Latvia was trying to persuade the EU to allocate funding for a Russian-language TV channel.

A number of Russian TV channels were temporarily banned in Latvia and Estonia last year for spreading distorted and biased information about the Ukraine conflict.

Estonia, Lithuania, Denmark and the UK have issued an appeal to Brussels, calling for a common EU plan to counter Russia's " propaganda campaign" at a time when tension has escalated because of the Ukraine crisis.

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