Doubt over future funding for LR 4, LSM portals in English and Russian

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The continued existence of Latvian Radio 4, as well as the LSM news portals in English and Russian is under threat due to a lack of funding, the management of Latvian Radio and Latvian Television told the Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee February 6.

Drawing to a close, a parliamentary discussion related to the legal status of Latvian public media turned to the topic of a possible funding cut to the aforementioned programs, reported Latvian Radio.

Talk of potential funding cut has come up this week during cabinet discussions on this year's budget.

For the past few years, an annual €191,000 spent on Latvian Radio 4 and Latvian Radio content for minorities, as well as a joint €121,000 on the LSM portals in English and Russian have been allocated from a special fund and were not part of the basic budget of the public media.

"For several years, this funding has been available for maintaining and creating the content and platforms in question, and it's important to preserve it. Otherwise, both Latvian Radio and Latvian Television say they don't have enough resources for these functions. Yesterday, budget talks were held which made it evident that the government is not prepared to support this funding," said Aiga Grišāne, head of the Media Policy Department at the Ministry of Culture. 

The LETA news agency, citing LTV board member Ivars Priede, said that this year funding for has been provided from own resources with the idea in mind that there'd be funding for the aforementioned projects.

"Since yesterday's government meeting we are less confident that funding will be granted. If we have a signal that it won't, we'll have to make a decision," said Priede. director Voldemārs Oliņš confirmed that currently editorial boards are funded from LTV resources.

"Up until now, unofficial information from the ministries led one to think that funding will be continued and therefore no alarm was sounded until now.

"There are to scenarios: closing the English and Russian-language services or looking for funding in the current LTV budget. Seeing as LTV is facing a tight financial situation this year, there's worry that the first scenario will be adopted.

"Furthermore, a decision by the MPs over not continuing this funding would be a direct gesture that such content is not necessary. Of course, I think differently, but we have MPs so that they decide on what needs to be done," said Oliņš.

Oliņš also pointed out that LSM's English-language service is practically the only independent news source where English-speaking audiences can find objective info on Latvia. "The next source in line, which also produces a lot of English-language news in English, is Russia Today," he said.

"The Russian-language service is likewise unique in that it's practically the only Russian-language outlet in Latvia that can produce content that's meaningful to the public without blindly following the public need for tabloid content," he said. 

Meanwhile Artuss Kaimiņš (KPV LV), the head of the Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, said that it's important to continue funding as the benefits brought to the public by these programs outweigh the financial cost. 

Latvian Radio 4 is a Russian-language radio station. LSM portals in Latvian, English and Russian are part of the same umbrella public service organization as Latvian Radio and Latvian Television.

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