The Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, are thinking of putting together a joint television channel that will broadcast in Russian. The 3 countries are hoping that they would get funding from the European Union, in an effort to counter the current Russian propaganda.
Although this idea has some political connotations, this effort will benefit the sizeable population, numbering in the thousands, which are living in the Baltics but do not speak the local language. They are ethnic Russians that have been living in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia when these three countries were still a part of the Soviet Union. They watch the news and other broadcasts in Russian from Moscow, via cable television. Each of the Baltic countries has its own official language.
Cause for alarm
The Baltic nations are alarmed by what happened in Crimea and the Russians are using the broadcast media for pro-Russian broadcasts. This is the reason why the 3 Baltic nations plan to put up their own Russian-language channel, to prevent Moscow from lording it in the airwaves.
At present Lithuania and Latvia have banned some TV stations that are pro-Russia temporarily, including the RTR Planeta and the RTR Rossiya that are based in Moscow. Even the Education Minister of Estonia, Jevgeni Ossinovski, whose origin is ethnic Russian, believe that this project is a national priority. In Estonia, 28% of the country’s population of 1.3 million, are Russian speakers. About a third of the 2.2 million population in Latvia are Russian speakers. Only about 6% of Lithuania’s population of 3 million, on the other hand, speak Russian. The project aims to run their own information campaign, and it is a national priority on how the country should communicate with its own residents, according to Ossinovski.
Joint Baltic channel
Said to be the mastermind of the plan is Ivars Belte, who is the chief of the state TV in Latvia. He said that a joint TV channel among the three Baltic countries would be more economical than operating three separate TV broadcast channels. It is likewise faster to mount the project when it is a joint operation, and they are thinking that their plan could be launched next year or the year after. At the moment, there is no confirmation yet if the EU would be willing to help.
Alternative sources online
Those that are opposed to what Moscow is presently doing have turned to online sources for alternative points of view. Still, these countries recognize the power and reach of television in shaping people’s opinion. This is what the Baltic countries are banking on, since television is the main source of news. The headquarters of PBK, a Balkan TV station that broadcasts in Russian, is located in Latvia and enjoys a viewership of 4 million across the three countries. There is little information about this station and its owners but observers of local media say that the programs it airs definitely are pro-Moscow.
It will be a wait-and-see scenario at this point, as there are varying opinions as to the viability of the plan. Of course some of these come from other networks that foresee the new TV channel as another competitor.