Ekspress and Päevaleht: ERR playing political games

ERR Chairman Margus Allikmaa Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
2/11/2015 12:26 PM
Category: Politics

ERR, the national public broadcaster, and its head Margus Allikmaa have been accused of playing odd games before national elections.

Eesti Ekspress and Eesti Päevaleht have published a number of instances where questionable decisions have been taken by ERR's management in recent weeks, including rejecting a former Reform Party minister Rein Lang for a talk show, fearing that Lang would use the show to criticize ERR.

Journalist Allar Tankler wrote in an Eesti Ekspress article that Allikmaa initially agreed to hire Lang, but on the condition that he does not turn the radio show into a weapon against ERR. Lang agreed, but Allikmaa later backtracked, saying Lang is not suitable for the job.

Tankler said that other Reform Party members hold Lang to be a loose cannon, capable of coming out with personal opinions that could be embarrasing for the party in power.

Allikmaa himself had a short stint as a Reform Party minister at the beginning of the last decade, but quit the party in 2004 to take the chief postion at ERR.

ERR recently aired an episode of Õnne 13, one of the nation's longest running and most popular TV series, where Indrek Saar made a cameo appearance. Saar is an actor and was in the show years ago, but is better known as the secretary general of the Social Democrat Party.

Saar quoted Estonian writer Anton Hansen Tammsaare in the episode. The Social Democrats had previously run an election campaign, based on pre-war Estonian public figures, including Tammsaare.

Päevaleht reported on Monday that ERR's sports department wrote to the management board of ERR a year ago, saying that Allikmaa asked them to cover certain events and told them not to interview Center Party members - charge that Allikmaa denies.

Allikmaa allegedly asked the sports department to cover in live a motor sport event in 2012, saying that an important politician sits on the board of the motor sports' federation, and he could vote to increase ERR's budget. That politician was Taavi Rõivas who later became the prime minister. Other similar examples are also highlighted.

Allikmaa said in response that he has offered many ideas to the sports department over the years, adding that political connections can be found in some of the ideas, but they are purely a coincidence.

Allikmaa and the sports department locked horns a year ago, disagreeing over which sporting events should be covered. That battle was won by Allikmaa, who survived a very close no-confidence vote in the management board. Marko Kaljuveer, the head of the sports department at the time, then left ERR, as did aonther board member, in protest.

ERR operates ETV, the public television station, a number of radio stations and news websites, including ERR News.

J.M. Laats, S. Tambur

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