Monday, December 29, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Latvia Seeks EU Funding for Full Service Russian-Language TV Channel

Paul Goble


            Staunton, December 29 – Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics says that Riga is seeking EU funding in order to launch a Russian-language television network for Russian speakers in his country and the region so that they will not turn to Moscow channels that are full of misinformation and anti-Western propaganda.


            The new channel, he says, will feature not only news but also entertainment programming because “people do not need news 24 hours a day.”  That reflects his understanding that people often watch news on the same channels they get their entertainment – which is one of the advantages Moscow TV now has over Western outlets which broadcast only news (


            Rinkevics adds that Latvia is prepared to work with neighboring countries and with the European Union on the service and is quite prepared to have it operate under EU direction.  Estonia is a potential partner in this: its parliament recently approved 2.5 million euros (3 million US dollars) to start such a television channel next September.


These Latvian and Estonian initiatives reflect the increasing understanding of governments there and elsewhere in the region that Moscow has used its advantages in television broadcasting to shape opinion among Russian speakers in neighboring countries who in many cases prefer Russian television to national competitors.


Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet states have put most of their effort into producing non-Russian language broadcasts, and at least some of them, the Balts in the first instance, have been reluctant for national reasons to produce massive amounts of programming in what they still reasonably view as the “imperial” language.”


But Moscow’s success in forming opinion in Ukraine via its television broadcasts has prompted them to change their minds and to recognize that the problem is not the language of broadcasts but their content.  Russian-language programming can be accurate, informative, and supportive of the independence of their countries, even if Moscow TV now is anything but.


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