Ban on Russian channels ends

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The three-month ban on rebroadcasts of Russian cable television channel Rossiya RTR imposed in April by the National Electronic Mass Media Council of Latvia (NEPLP) ended Tuesday, with mixed results.

While Latvia’s cable operators complied with the ban, many ran a test version of similarly-oriented subsidiary RTR Planeta. Moreover, satellite service provider Viasat claimed to be outside of Latvia’s regulatory jurisdiction and continued to rebroadcast controversial content via the Russian media during the three-month term set by the council.

According to the Saeima-approved independent regulator’s chairman Ainars Dimants, the prohibition nevertheless achieved several purposes.

“We are talking about violations of our limits on war propaganda. We reached our intended goal of getting Rossiya RTR out of the national advertising market for three months. Secondly, a clear political signal was given, that such activity by Russia, using media as an instrument of war propaganda is unacceptable. Third, this will allow us to reconsider the audiovisual services directives with other EU member states, because here the programs were rebroadcast under Swedish jurisdiction, no monitoring is done and Sweden’s regulators cannot implement the directive,” he said.  

He added that the council is now aware of additional “holes” in the Law on Electronic Mass Media with regard to satellite rebroadcasts and test-regime programming, which Dimants claimed could also have been prohibited given proper legislative clarity.

As reported, on April 7 the NEPLP restricted all rebroadcasts Rossiya RTR based upon examination of recordings of the state-controlled Russian channel’s programming between March 2 and 17 and at the behest of the Security Police (DP), who found the channel’s justifications of military aggression against Ukraine’s sovereignty to have been “presented most tendentiously.”

The NEPLP ruling also pointed to “consciously fictional assumptions” and “a primitive view” as consistent features of Rossiya RTR’s news broadcasts, and deemed them to be detrimental to Latvia’s national interests.

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