An extract from The Technology, Media and Telecommunications Review, 11th Edition

Media

i Regulation of media distribution generally

Network operators and content providers are regulated separately. While network operators are mainly regulated by the Regulator in accordance with the ECL, content providers are governed by the NEMMC in line with the EMA.

Many restrictions on the provision of service were included in the 2018 amendments to the EMA (see more in Section VI). In addition, the EMA stipulates that the electronic media cannot include in their programmes:

  1. stories highlighting violence;
  2. pornographic material;
  3. encouragement of incitement to hatred or a call to discriminate against a person or group of persons;
  4. a call to war or a military conflict;
  5. an invitation to violently overthrow the state's power or violently change the state machinery, to crush territorial integrity or to commit another crime;
  6. scenes that discredit Latvia's statehood and national symbols.109

Providers must respect human rights and defend the idea of a democratic and independent Latvia.110 All television broadcasts in foreign languages, with specific exceptions, must be provided with subtitles in Latvian,111 while films must have either an audio translation or subtitles.112 If a public electronic medium creates and distributes television news broadcasts in a foreign language, a summary must be provided in the form of a line in the national language.113 European audiovisual works must occupy a minimum of 51 per cent of broadcast time, with the exception of news, sports events, games, advertisements and television stores.114

The retransmission of an electronic media audiovisual programme from another EU Member State or EEA country can be restricted if its provider has unequivocally, seriously and materially violated specific provisions of the EMA at least twice during the previous 12 months.115

Emerging platforms are treated differently from traditional media outlets. While the traditional outlets are considered as media, regulated by the Law on Press,116 platforms that are not registered as mass media or in their style are not identical to online news portals117 do not fall under the scope of this law. By now the criteria of an identical style, developed by the Supreme Court, have been applied only to platforms that work in cooperation with printed magazines, or which are publicly recognised as trustworthy news portals.118 Therefore, it is not known whether these criteria could be applied also to fight against the fake news outlets.

In 2017, the parliament adopted at first reading a draft Law on Public Electronic Media and its Management, which provides for a new and separate regulation for public electronic media, addressing their governance, financing, supervision and other issues. Initially, the bill was scheduled to be adopted by mid 2017; however, its third and last reading – scheduled for October 2020 – has been postponed.

In June 2018, in the second reading, the Saeima unanimously supported the urgent amendments to the Electronic Media Law, including the exit of public media from the advertising market from 2021. In the public media sector, the exit of the advertising market has been discussed for years. This is supported by both LTV and Latvian Radio management, commercial media and the Ministry of Culture and the National Electronic Mass Media Council. The exit could only happen if it had the necessary funding in the national budget. Public media plans to direct funding to new content, tax and copyright payments, investments and maintenance, previously covered by advertising revenue.119

ii Internet-delivered video content

Latvian television provides access to many of its programmes on the Latvian Public Media portal.120 The same practice is evolving in some other television stations.121 However, here the distribution has not moved from television to the internet: rather, both are offered in parallel to cover Latvians living abroad, as well as people who do not have a television at home. Due to the plans on universal services, as well as the accessibility of the internet in libraries, this has a positive impact on consumers.

Many smart-television options are also offered to consumers in Latvia. Non-linear services have specific regulations within the EMMA. These regulations include, for example, the duty to ensure that minors under normal conditions cannot access the services that might seriously impair their physical, mental and moral development.

Since 2018, the NEMMC has the rights to limit access to websites that provide audiovisual content illegally. In August 2019, the NEEMC carried out a massive inspection of internet websites to find such channels. So far it has resulted in the blocking of two internet web pages, by restricting the use of their domain names until 15 January.122