RIGA, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- The imminent closure of Latvia's oldest commercial television channel, LNT, planned by its owner All Media Baltics as part of a major overhaul of its business, has sparked concerns about media pluralism in the Baltic country.
According to the restructuring plan announced by All Media Baltics on Friday, the media group's products in all three Baltic states will operate under the TV3 brand starting in December this year, the group's representative Alise Malisko informed reporters.
All Media Baltics will also be renamed as TV3 Group. Among other things, the restructuring and rebranding plan includes significant changes in the group's portfolio of TV channels and their content. Part of the programs currently produced by the LNT news service will be transferred to TV3, creating a single news service that would be producing content for various media formats.
Some 30 to 40 LNT employees are likely to be laid off as a result of the merger of the two TV channels' news services, Latvian public radio informed.
The Latvian Culture Ministry, which is in charge of the country's national media policy, ordered the broadcasting watchdog, the National Electronic Mass Media Council, to assess how the merger of the TV3 and LNT news services will affect general media plurality in Latvia, said Ministry spokeswoman Lita Kokale.
The National Electronic Mass Media Council's deputy chairman Ivars Abolins indicated that the owner's decision to change LNT channel's format might contravene the Latvian media law which forbids changing the formats of programs approved in the broadcasting license.
"Latvia-produced content is certainly one of the National Electronic Mass Media Council's priorities. Under LNT's existing broadcasting license, 4 percent of the weekly broadcasting time must be devoted to the news," said the watchdog's representative.
Responding to All Media Baltics' plans to reorganize LNT, the Latvian Journalists' Association issued a statement, saying that the effective closure of the TV channel and its news service is the worst event the Latvian media industry has seen in the last decade as it is likely to weaken pluralism in Latvia's media environment and make it harder to counter fake news and disinformation.