A trip down memory lane: Estonian Television celebrates 60 years
Estonian Television (ETV), the crown jewel of Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), is celebrating 60 years of national broadcasting. Over the next two days, ERR News will publish bits of the station's vast photo archive.
ETV was launched on July 19, 1955, following the Soviet government's decision to establish a television station in 1953.
Regardless of whether the Soviets had more sinister aims than providing a hotbed for Estonian language and culture on the TV-screens, the national TV channel has maintained a unique archive which is part of a rich Estonian cultural heritage.
True, some Russian-language programs and films were also forced upon on the ETV's program during the occupation, but nevertheless the original material that was produced – from talk-shows to documentaries and TV-plays to children's programs – is impressive.
The important value of national television was especially significant following the Soviet perestroika and during the Singing Revolution, when ETV was giving more and more airtime to various Estonian intellectuals and thinkers who were openly critizising the Soviet regime and later called for Estonian independence. For example, it was live on air on the ETV-show “Mõtleme Veel” (let's think again) on April 13, 1988, when Edgar Savisaar introduced an idea to establish the Popular Front of Estonia, which later called for self-governing Estonia and organized series of much-crowded events and actions which increased national pride.
With independence restored and capitalism ushered in, ETV went through slightly turbulent period in the 1990s. Competing private TV-channels TV3 and Kanal 2 were founded and due to unstable state-funding, ETV allowed TV-advertizing for the first time (it stopped showing commercials in 2002, after a deal in which private broadcasters pay around 15 percent of the ETV's funding for their exclusive right to screen TV-advertizing).
The decade also saw many stalwart TV anchors and personalities, such as Urmas Ott, leave ETV – either to private channels or more lucrative jobs elsewhere.
In a more positive news, ETV became an active member of the European Broadcasting Union and hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002, after previous year win by Estonia.
ETV was merged with Estonian Radio Service in 2007, despite some opposition, to form what is now known as Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR).
Today, ETV is again cherished as the most competent TV-channel in Estonia, which produces more original programs than any private channel. The ETV2 was introduced in 2008, focusing mainly on educational programs and documentaries. ETV+, a Russian-language channel, will start broadcasting this autumn.