Potentially breaking the hearts of the country's football fans, financial problems have forced Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) to consider selling off the rights to next year's world championships in football. Several other services face deep budget cuts as of the new year.
"We don't have enough money in next year's budget to cover the expenses on the two major events, the football world championships and the Sochi Winter Olympics," Margus Allikmaa, the chairman of the management board of ERR, told sport.err.ee.
In late September, as reported at the time by Delfi and other outlets, ERR made a request to the government for 800,000 euros in additional funding, but was turned down.
"To be able to keep the expenditures and revenue in balance in the 2014 budget and also maintain all program services at existing volumes, we must forgo the rights to the football world championships."
"Giving up the rights is not easy and the only possibility is to sell them to another nationwide channel. This is so that Estonians could still be able to see the football and we could get to a balanced budget."
Besides TV rights, ERR also holds the rights to transmit content to Internet and mobile devices, but as these would cost about 600,000 euros, Allikmaa said he would also try to sell them off to private channels.
"Tallinn TV has expressed the strongest interest, but I still hope that private channels will think about their possibilities. The fact that [Kanal 2 General Manager] Urmas Oru is saying that this is something that is expensive beyond all measure is just part of the bargaining process, nothing else," he said.
Indrek Ibrus, a media expert interviewed by ETV, called on private channels to strongly consider picking up the rights.
"I sincerely feel ERR and the main private channels could arrive some sort of compromise," he said, adding that the tradition in Britain was for the BBC and private channels to share coverage rights for major tournaments.
ERR still intends to cover the Sochi Games, which sources in the organization, speaking on condition of anonymity, said would necessitate paring back coverage in other areas, including some web services such as ERR News and the Russian-language news site. The extent of the cuts has not been publicly announced, but estimations are that both of the above news sites would have their budgets cut by 33 percent.