On Thursday, 21 October, the National Electronic Media Council of Latvia (NEPLP) decided to revoke the broadcasting licence of the Russian-language propaganda channel First Baltic Channel (PBK) Latvia as of 26 October of the current year.
However, the NEPLP verdict was based not on the soft pro-Russian propaganda that is hard to prove, but on very specific reasons. According to the Council, during the current year three significant violations of the law on electronic media were registered in the programmes of PBC Latvia. The first violation consists of broadcasting programmes of other media; the second one consists of non-compliance with the requirement that 51% of audio-visual material shown during the week must have been produced in the EU; the third one consists of spreading information about Covid-19 that endangers public health. In one of the PBC Latvia broadcasts it was said that ‘Covid 19 is a low contagious disease and can be avoided by eating herring…’.
A year ago, NEPLP banned broadcasting of nine Russian channels in Latvia, the real beneficiary of which is a billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk who is included into the list of sanctions. At the beginning of February 2021, broadcasting of the TV channel Russia RTR was banned in Latvia for one-year time for the hate speech against Ukraine. Since July this year, additional programmes in Latvia’s basic cable TV package must consist of 80% of content originally produced in the state language and EU languages, and only 20% may be in other languages, including Russian. Unlicensed watching of Russian TV channels by individuals via satellite TV in Latvia is punishable by a fine.