Public media communication with the people on an editorial level is insufficient, expert says

Currently public media do not use the option to communicate with the people on an editorial level to the full potential, said Public Electronic Mass Media Council (SEPLP) member Jānis Eglītis at a meeting with Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, 30 November.
Eglītis added by saying that he does not believe editorial offices should respond to everything that appears on Twitter. Nevertheless, the conversation about editorial choices should be more active nonetheless.
On 30 November Saeima’s subcommittee went through the report from SEPLP for the work done in the first 100 days and objectives presented to the council. The council’s chairman Jānis Siksnis said work at SEPLP is divided among three groups – one team is working on a single media management solution, the second is working on content development, and the third is working on infrastructure development. Work groups are in charge of developing a single public media concept, which SEPLP plans to submit to the Saeima in February.
Siksnis notes that content diversity should be preserved in the merge process. At the same time, it is necessary to increase the horizontal cooperation involving radio, television and the internet.
It is necessary to to form a new structure that would help develop multimedia content, said the SEPLP manager, adding that it is necessary to provide synergy of support functions and define other important aspects to ensure development. According to him, one of the most important principles states that a stable and unified media is possible only if there is an appropriate and independent financing system.
This is where SEPLP’s second objective comes into play – development of a public media financing concept. Work groups are already working on that. This includes analysing experience of other EU member states and evaluation of the existing financing models in Latvia.
Siksnis adds the work group is not expected to present any unexpected offers.
According to him, Lithuania’s model is particularly attractive. The reason is because public media there are financed from the state budget.
The budget outlines a portion of the money to be diverted to public media so that it is possible for them to plan their budgets. Siksnis said in several years Lithuanian public media have gone from the least financed to the most financed public media in the Baltic States.
Opposition deputy Boriss Cilevičs said this was the second time he listened to this particular report from SEPLP, because a week prior he took part in a different meeting of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee. He asked how it is possible to achieve diversity in public media. SEPLP member said they are already fairly diverse.
Eglītis added that in Latvia there are already four news services among public media. «Every single one of us can express our opinions what is and what isn’t right, but the variety of opinions on public media is represented on a very high level even when compared to neighbouring countries,» said SEPLP member.
Siksnis said the chief editors should provide public explanations for editorial choices. Council member Sanita Upleja-Jegermane said there is already a freedom and ethics code that dictates how journalists should cover political events. If people have doubts, SEPLP member suggests reaching out to the commission with a complaint.
At the same time, she also said the position of chief editor has always been needed.
The head of the sub-committee Vita Anda Tērauda asked if the council plans to measure how public media reflect diversity of opinions. Eglītis said yes. He said this year SEPLP and National Electronic Mass Media Council has focused on the development of a content management system.
He hopes next year it will be possible to monitor what content the media create. This means looking at how often different media post content about financial literacy, different regional news, other topics, as well as content for disabled people. He said until now this was not possible. The reason is because all stories were created genre-wise. Thanks to this system it will be possible to determine the percentage of different topics.
Commenting on the way public media report activities of the opposition, Eglītis said there is the question if there is a need to impose quotas on the percentage of discussions attended by opposition or ruling parties’ representatives. SEPLP member said he doubts if this is needed, adding that this is a question for Latvijas Radio and LTV. «If there is a programme reporting on political topics, it is important for opposition representatives to show up, but if the programme discusses long-standing issues and a minister is invited to comment, whether or not the opposition should be invited is debatable,» said Eglītis.
Saeima deputy Dagmāra Beitnere-Le Galla said she had a conversation with the Polish ambassador to Latvia. The two had discussed the topic of public media and the Polish side said they would gladly offer to provide some of their programmes for Latvia’s media space. She said there are also other minorities besides Russian-speakers, so she asked SEPLP for commitment and guarantees, adding that there is a large Polish community in Latgale.
According to her, inclusion of Polish channels to Latvia’s media space would be a strong step forward, especially considering the current situation in Poland.
The deputy said it is a matter of Latvia’s security, adding that «before we criticize Poland, we have to understand them».
Beitnere–Le Galla also said she expects a compilation of opinions from SEPLP members regarding the council’s objectives and position. According to her, it is the council’s political responsibility, because SEPLP members were elected by members of the parliament, who were, in turn, elected by residents. The deputy also said it is necessary to make sure «journalists don’t think they were elected by the population».
«Saeima deputies are criticized and we accept criticisms. So should you,» she said, adding that if SEPLP members consider this as threats, they should «politically mature» to become SEPLP. «You are not just journalists any more, you represent our country’s national position,» she added.
At the same time, she said she would like SEPLP to be more careful with the financing provided to it. Siksnis said Latvijas Radio 4 has been producing content in nine different national minority languages and continues doing this to this day.
The discussion was also attended by the chairman of the Human Rights Committee Artuss Kaimiņš, who asked if it is try SEPLP has hired public relations company Deep White. Siksnis said yes. Kaimiņš asked If the council could send the committee and official estimate or contract by 3 December. Siksnis agreed.
He also said all of the council’s expenses will be reviewed by the State Audit.
He also said if Saeima deputies want better cooperation and quicker results, asking for information regarding every service will not help.