How do Members of Parliament View the Public Value of Public Service Media? The Case of Latvia

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Abstract

The Development of public media in Latvia as a post-communist country has essentially been influenced by politicians. The political community has had consensus that certain reforms are necessary to ensure the development of public media given the changes in the communication space and its role in the facilitation of the strengthening of democracy, yet during the last fifteen years the political elite has not been able to come to a common agreement and to make decisions on systemic reforming and the development of public media. Since the communication environment has changed post digitalisation of television, the question about public media development and legitimisation has become increasingly topical.

The aim of the study is to explore how the members of the parliament of Latvia (Saeima) position public service media (PSM) in Latvia and assess the public value of PSM. The theoretical framework for the research is based on the concept of public value „strategic triangle” (Benington & Moore 2011), which consists of three main elements: public value outcomes, the authorising environment and operational capacity.

The study is based on qualitative research methods including 18 semi-structured interviews conducted with members of the Saeima in 2012 and 2013. The acquired data has been analysed by the principles of thematic analysis (Attride-Stirling 2001). Analysis of the interviews show that members of the Saeima recognise the need for public media to be independent whilst at the same time supporting a model in which public media is not supposed to have independent funding and they will continue competing with commercial media in the advertising market. High competition and resentment are characteristic features of the political elite in Latvia that apparently would also in future hamper the making of such decisions about public media that will facilitate their high-quality. Results of the research show the tendency for members of parliament to lack the necessary knowledge to formulate their opinion and to modulate relations of public media with society and their place in the overall media system in Latvia.

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