“Proposals for the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive must be rooted in the realities of current situation – taking into account trends in the dissemination of fake news and interference with democratic processes in sovereign countries. For instance, member states must be given the right to promptly restrict the activities of audiovisual service providers that contain hate speech, threats to national security and public order, including cases where reports about offences are received from another member state,” says Lolita Čigāne, Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima.
As an example, Čigāne references the 2012 referendum on granting the Russian language the status of an official language of Latvia, which revealed obvious threats to national security. That is, third country TV channels registered in a different EU member state were broadcasting political campaigns in Latvia aimed at steering the outcome of the referendum. The Chairperson points out that this was the reason why the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council proposed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive to be supplemented with a fast-track procedure for member states to promptly restrict the activities of such broadcasters.
On Wednesday, 22 February, the European Affairs Committee adopted Latvia’s position on the revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council, after hearing the report on the national position from Dace Melbārde, Minister of Culture.
Latvia has been consistently insisting on strengthening the exchange of information among member states, media regulators and the European Commission, in order to prevent circumvention of national laws in cases where third country media registered in another member state transmit or retransmit inappropriate content, for instance, in Latvia.
Latvia also supports the introduction of a public list of audiovisual media services and jurisdictions, and suggests the list to be supplemented with descriptions of target audiences and their country of residence. That would enable a member state to consult with the country of the defined target audience upon receiving a request from a broadcaster to grant transmission or retransmission permit.
Furthermore, Latvia supports the idea of ensuring transparency in the area of media owners and beneficial owners, pointing out that citizens of the EU have the right to access that information.
On the account of news increasingly being overrun with disinformation and fake reports, Latvia holds an opinion that the Directive should include a requirement for news and current event programmes to provide precise and unbiased information.
The Chairperson of the Committee raised the issue concerning the large number of third country TV channels broadcasting in European countries, including the Baltic States, that are currently registered in the United Kingdom, which is in the process of leaving the EU. Representatives of the Ministry of Culture specified that altogether there are 46 UK-registered TV channels that broadcast in Latvia, pointing out that the matter will be included in the Brexit talks.
The goal of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive is to coordinate specific provisions in member states’ national legal acts on the provision of audiovisual media services. The Directive makes a step towards a single European market for audiovisual media services, ensuring harmonisation of the relevant national regulations and simplifying the provision of audiovisual media services within the EU based on the broadcaster’s country of origin. The Directive was adopted in 2010; taking into account the substantial changes in the field of audiovisual media services, as well as the challenging geopolitical circumstances, a decision was made to revise the Directive.
Saeima Press Service