FOX television cancels use of Russian guidelines for Baltic translations

The FOX television channel has retracted a requirement to translate its original programs broadcast in the Baltic states along Russian guidelines, the TV3 commercial TV channel reported April 19.

The guidelines were retracted April 18, before translators started using them, TV3 said. Igors Djacenko, the Latvian head of SDI Media translation services provider, told TV3 that the company did not send the guidelines to the translators. FOX have retracted the requirement to use them, Djacenko said.

SDI Media is not the only company translating FOX programs, though, so there is still a possibility of some other translators using the Russian guidelines, according to the TV3 report.

LETA reported April 18 that the original content of the FOX television channel was translated for Baltic audiences along guidelines that have been developed in Russia and require glossing over certain topics seen as sensitive by Russian censors.

The Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) said they had received a complaint from a viewer about this situation, that the translations of some Fox programs are deficient, and pointed out that this was the first time they were hearing about such translation guidelines.

NEPLP spokesman Kalvis Gavars told LETA that FOX is a TV channel in Spain’s jurisdiction and its programs are rebroadcast in Latvia’s territory, which means that the translation issues have to be dealt with between the holder of the programs’ rights and the translators, while the quality of the translations is outside the National Electronic Mass Media Council’s area of competence.

According to a letter to the translators of FOX programs which has been obtained by LETA, the translators have to follow Russian subtitling guidelines requiring glossing over or “softening content” concerning accidents, homosexual relationships, “anti-Russian propaganda”, narcotics, extremist activities and suicides.

For instance, the translators are instructed to “soften” all negative language about the Russian military and space program, policies of the Russian president and government, while positive texts about same-sex relationships have to be made more generalized so they could be attributed to relationships of any kind.

Authors of the letter admit that such an approach to translation cannot be consider good practice but that FOX content comes to the Baltic states through Russia which is why the subtitles have to be in line with the Russian law.

“Of course, such softening of language can be seen as controversial and may not be in line with the common practice, but it is required by law,” the letter to the translators says.

Anda Rozukalne, a media expert and associate professor at Riga Stradins University, said that Russia uses any channels and tools, including translation, to distort information wherever it can.

She admitted, however, that under the current regulation NEPLP is unable to reverse an intermediary’s requirements regarding the TV channel’s content.

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