Observer's Notebook: It's a Wrap for 'Meet the Candidates' TV Show
ERR's "Vali Mind" (Vote for Me) candidate video project has finished its run on TV and will continue to be available online for streaming until the day of the municipal elections.
As a project, it was modestly innovative in form and ambitious for a first attempt at this format. A selection from the country's 15,000 candidates - individuals as well as election coalition and party representatives - were given three minutes on ETV2 to air their views and ideas. In the end, 239 candidates went on the air.
The list was light on some election coalitions (including only one from Tartu's Vabakund, which is a group of experts and intellectuals from Estonia's traditional university town, many probably worth listening to) and heavy on the relatively marginal Conservative People's Party. Still, the selection did cover all the bases, and represented all regions and election coalitions as well as parties. Producers have even expressed hope that the format could be exported to other countries.
Producer Tiit Kimmel said: "The candidates who used the opportunity developed by ERR came to the taping well prepared, with concrete ideas, intelligently structured presentations."
A viewing of the clips largely confirms this. What is surprising is that many lesser-known candidates from the provinces seemed very natural before the cameras, coming close to the ideal of direct, articulate, extemporaneous speaking. Veteran national politicians did well, but occasionally stumbled, and surprisingly many looked questioningly off-camera for a cue an instant before they launched into their talks.
And thus a total newcomer to Estonian politics might be forgiven for thinking that a longtime Center Party mayor of a southern country town was some mover and shaker in the top echelons. Likewise, a candidate from Estonia's most isolated island, though appearing to have spent too long in the wind immediately prior to the clip, impressed with clear communication skills and excellent camera presence.
Oh yes, and the two foreign nationals running in Tallinn? One seemed to be an old hand and delivered a full, albeit heavily accented, Estonian presentation, while the other appeared to have arrived from outer space, or maybe the Ecuadorian embassy.
Producer Kimmel also told ERR News that three candidates chose to deliver their presentations in verse form.
TV vs. Net
Although market research showed that the clips were heavily watched on both TV and in on-demand format, several candidates chose their wording with first-run ETV2 audiences in mind, perhaps not considering that the video would be streamable on-demand all through October.
If there's a weak spot, it was the online presentation of the clips, this ERR page and the ETV2 analog for the show, which may just fuel the continuing questions about how ERR's traditionally stronger TV side should be integrated with online content. Both of these pages are little more than a drawer for a big pile of TV clips - fun to browse parts of the more than 10 hours of material, but impractical for much else. There is no search engine for finding a specific one of the 239 candidates by name or precinct, nor are the videos linked to the candidate entries in the main, better-quality Candidates section of ERR's election coverage.
The lack of search engines also plagues Postimees's candidate site and the EPL/Delfi version. Only the unrelated, non-ERR Vali Mind website - developed by the Social Media Community NGO - is fully searchable, but in this case, the developers took a less work-intensive approach and left it up to the candidates to upload most of their information. As a result, it is somewhat less complete.
Note: the story was corrected to make clear that not all 15,000 candidates received an invitation to appear.