The News Service staff from Latvia’s public radio station, Latvijas Radio, have expressed no confidence in their board and issued an open letter demanding board members to quit or be dismissed by the National Electronic Mass Media Council due to poor working conditions and inaction to support the sustainability of the broadcaster.

Extensive workloads, low wages and an inability to retain professional journalists are concerns noted in the letter by staff and management. According to LSM, 11 journalists have resigned this year alone, most of them from the News Service, having secured higher paid jobs from commercial media and Latvian Television. 

Concerns related to the choice of board members were also expressed in the open letter, mainly  regarding a lack of media experience and affiliations with a political party. Indeed, it critically stated that “The current inactivity of the Latvian Radio management makes it clear that the board is not interested to see a strong and independent public radio as [an] integral part of democratic society.”

In response, the Latvian Radio board have announced that pay rises demanded by staff were unlikely to happen due to budgetary constraints.

Ongoing concern

The future of Latvia’s public broadcaster has been under question for some time. Latvia’s state budget subsidy for public media is 0.1% of the country’s GDP, and has the lowest public media funding among the EU Member States, according to the European Broadcasting Association. 

MP Vita Anda Terauda, chair of the media policy committee in the Saeima, the country’s parliament, has announced that her Development/For! alliance have already drawn up a proposal to increase funding for Latvia’s public radio and television. Speaking to ERR, she draws attention to this “crisis in confidence in the supervision of the public media.” She adds that “we are insufficiently funded. Our public media is kept in two separate legal entities – with discrete radio and TV organisations – and a public media unable to keep up with the times and develop digital platforms.” 

Similarly, at the Global Conference for Media Freedom held in London on 10-11 July, Latvia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkēvičs, highlighted the challenges that public media face within the country.

“Back home in my country we are having a huge debate about public media; about how we can finance it, how we can strengthen it, what we can do about all those traditional media. The problem is that the government cannot finance journalism…”

This crisis in confidence and public media funding occurs in the wake of Latvia’s new president taking to office. Monday 8 July marked the meeting of the Saeima, whereby the new president-elect, Egil Levits, took the oath of office to replace outgoing President Vējonis.


Header Image: Latvian Broadcasting Radio Company (Latvijas Radio) near Dome Square (Doma laukums), Riga. Credit: VitalyEdush/iStock