Tuesday, November 21, 2006

«Da man» sings on the Latvian digital TV scandal

This is a paranoid post because I am worried that with the NATO summit here in Riga and its set of bizarre publishing schedule changes and days off, a potentially explosive story may get buried at my paper. It also is beginning to look like the paper will want everyone mentioned in a more than 30 000 character long interview transcript called up, read or summarized the entire transcript and then asked to comment on potentially embarrassing events that took place some four to six years ago. So with me transiting to my new job next week, I'm worried this could get mishandled. At the same time, I am saving exclusivity for the newspaper for now.
But to make a long story short (as told by one of the key «fixers», not the principal people):

The failed effort to build digital broadcast TV in Latvia was initiated in the early 2000s by a Latvian TV mogul who then went looking for another Mr. Big in Latvian business (not a media person). Together, through a muddle of offshore companies, they set up a seemingly foreign company that got the digital TV contract from the Latvian government. All sides involved (including key government decision-makers) knew or at least had a very good suspicion of what was what and who was who. Theories along these lines have already been raised on Latvian TV and in the press, but now a person claiming to have been instrumental in the arrangements has named names and given an account of his version of events.
In 2003, the whole thing fell apart with the government claiming fraud in the sense that the digital TV project was just a way to steal money (actually, the test of fraud may be hard to prove, since the foreign company with its local beneficial owners did actual deliver most of what it promised to deliver before the project was killed and also there was no provable intent to promise one thing and then take the money and run). The initial contract has been declared invalid by a Stockholm arbitration court on grounds that the Latvian side was misled and the local branch of the allegedly foreign company was preparing to repay all funds it received from the Latvian government. The Latvian prosecutor's office, however, has suspended the only remaining official of the company from office, hence no repayment can be arranged.
The lesson of this is that a Byzantine scheme which, at the end of the day if unhindered, would probably have resulted in building a digital broadcast TV network in Latvia (cost is debatable), has resulted in a situation where no digital TV will be built for years, and the parties involved will have lost more than they ever could have earned had everything gone smoothly.
In other words, a total clusterfuck Latvian style. What were these people smoking in 2001 or whenever, thinking this was cheaper than trying to do the project openly ( a prime consideration according to the version I've been told was an expected public uproar/envy/distrust if Latvians had openly done the deal from the start).
I hope this strange tale gets published. If not, maybe I will just put that interview transcript out on the blog.


wx said...

I honestly don't give a flying fuck about TV, or digital TV for that matter.

Anything I want I can download and watch it on my laptop whever, wherever.

Juris Kaža said...

I wrote about this because it is a major scandal in Latvia involving a new technology. Yes, for urban dwellers, broadcast digital TV is not much of an issue with cable and IPTV available. So "fly" on, Wx and don't worry about it...

Sic said...

Actually there were a lot of people who knew that Skele and Ekis are involved in this project from veru begining.