A bill aimed at completely banning advertising on LRT's radio, TV and online platforms has failed to pass a vote in the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, on Tuesday. The public broadcaster's head says the bill is an attack on LRT's independence.
The motion to include the bill into the parliament's agenda was rejected with 32 votes in favour, 16 against and 28 abstentions. This means that the bill, aimed at amending the law on Lithuania's public broadcaster, will not be heard in the current plenary session.
The bill was drafted by three MPs of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union, Arvydas Nekrošius, Valius Ąžuolas and Agnė Širinskienė. It foresees banning any type of advertising or broadcasting of public information for remuneration on LRT TV channels, radio and the public broadcaster's online platform LRT.lt. The exception would only apply to international contractual commitments during the broadcasting of events “significant for the public”.
Under the current law, LRT does not broadcast advertising on TV and radio, but can show adds on its website. However, the public broadcaster has recently announced it is removing all advertising from LRT.lt as well.
The current law also allows LRT to receive payment for broadcasting culturally, socially or educationally informative programmes. The proposed amendment would compel LRT to forgo such payments.
Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė, the head of LRT, says that the proposed bill is an attempt to exert political pressure on the public broadcaster.
“Cutting LRT funding and commercial revenue diminishes LRT's independence,” according to Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė.
According to her, the public broadcaster charges a relatively small fee for promoting socially or educationally meaningful initiatives in order to manage demand. Banning remuneration would be counterproductive, Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė says, as “airtime would be effectively inaccessible to cultural events, because it will be claimed by all, even low-value projects”.
The amendment would also preclude broadcasting international sporting events which come packaged with advertising.