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30th Jan 2023

Dutch grant Russian TV Rain broadcast licence after Latvia expulsion

  • TV Rain is known as liberal-leaning and was suspended by Russian authorities in March 2022 (Photo: Youtube)
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Dutch media authorities have granted a broadcasting license to TV Rain, a Russian news channel suspended in Russia, then forced to leave Latvia in December, following a row over its coverage of the Ukraine war.

In a statement TV Rain, known as Dozhd in Russian, on Tuesday (10 January) said Amsterdam will become its editorial centre and main studio "as soon as the staff receives permission to work in the Netherlands."

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The Dutch permit dated 22 December is valid for five years, granting TV Rain permission as a commercial media institution "to provide a commercial television broadcasting service."

It further states it has no grounds to reject the application because all the information provided by the broadcasting company TVR Studios BV which runs TV Rain, was correct and complete. The decision follows on the heels of a rocky year for the station.

TV Rain received a broadcasting licence from Latvia in June 2022 after it decided to quit its Russian operations when the Moscow authorities introduced a new censorship law following the start of the Ukraine invasion. But only months later, in December, Latvia's media regulator revoked TV Rain's licence for posing "threats to national security and social order."

The decision published on 6 December cites three violations: TV Rain did not provide Latvian subtitles to the broadcasts as per the licensing agreement, for which it was fined €4,000.

Furthermore, some programmes showed maps that depicted the Crimean Peninsula as a territory belonging to the Russian Federation while referring to Russian forces as 'our army.'

The licence was finally revoked when on 1 December, when a TV Rain anchor, as cited by the Latvian media council (NEPLP), described the plight of Russian soldiers who lacked food and water, and also called on viewers to send "testimonies" of frontline conditions in order to help the soldiers "with equipment and basic necessities."

The council concluded the broadcast was an "invitation to the audience to help" Russian forces "whose activities are directed against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine."

This would "endanger not only the security of the state of Ukraine but also create a significant threat to the security of Latvia and other European countries."

TV Rain admitted the broadcast had been "unacceptable" but later in a tweet said the decision to revoke its licence was "absurd." The international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also called on Latvia's media regulator not to withdraw the licence.

However, the news agency's leadership has since apologised and subsequently fired Alexei Korostelev, the news anchor responsible for the broadcast. He has also been banned from entering Latvia.

Korostelev has since described his words as a "slip of the tongue", reported The Moscow Times, a Russian news organisation housing in the same building in Amsterdam as TV Rain.

On Tuesday TV Rain announced it had started a legal challenge against the Latvian media regulator's decision.

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