Broadcast watchdog wants €1m to support private media

Latvia's broadcast watchdog, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) will ask the government to provide private television and radio companies with support to the tune of €1m, said NEPLP head Ivars Āboliņš appearing on Latvian Radio March 27.

Āboliņš said that the media industry is on the verge of bankruptcy. Incomes have plunged as advertisers are cancelling contracts en mass. The income of some media outlets has shrunk by 50% and even 70% to 80%. 

"If this situation goes on, we'll see even the big media close within a couple of months," said Āboliņš. 

He said that the media is a cornerstone in ensuring state safety, informing the public over the actions it needs to take during the Covid-19 outbreak, and therefore the media industry should receive special support.

Āboliņš said television and radio stations could apply for support through NEPLP tenders. "It wouldn't be enough, but it'd provide much needed support for the first few months until the situation becomes stable again," he said.

Āboliņš said that with tenders the broadcast watchdog could also direct media actions towards a specific audience, such as young people, seniors or minorities.

While this support concerns commercial stations, Āboliņš said that public media too would require support. Projected losses of public media, of which LSM portals in Latvian, English and Russian are part, are projected at €1.4 million this year. 

On March 26, the government said all companies with a turnover decrease of at least 30% from March 2019 and some less-affected companies will be able to apply to have employee downtime covered from the state budget during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

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