Can the public find out who owns the media through free access to the essential information required?
In Latvia, information on ownership of the media is not available to the public; neither media-specific nor company laws require disclose to the public sufficient information for ultimate owners to be identified. The Law on the Press and Other Mass Media which covers print, online and broadcast media, requires the media to register with the Commercial Register and to disclose ownership information to the Commercial Register according to the provisions of the Commercial Law. The information to be disclosed includes most of the essential information required to identify an owner with one important exception: beneficial owners need only be disclosed if they have a shareholding of over 25% meaning that those with an interest of 24% or lower remain anonymous.
Ownership information on media companies is generally available to the public via the Company register’s online portal but, at €5 per record, the charges for accessing the information are prohibitive. Some media ownership information is not available at all: not all forms of entities have to provide and update ownership information to the Commercial Register; and for some types of company (enterprises and general partnerships), only law enforcement agencies and supervisory institutions dealing with tax administration, public procurement or public and private partnership have the right to obtain information on the actual beneficiary.
The Electronic Media Act which regulates the licensing of broadcast media requires just the name and contact details of the media outlet and the direct owner(s) to be reported at the point of applying for a broadcasting licence meaning that ownership cannot be identified.
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