Small Versus Big: ERR News Editors Debate How the Public Broadcaster Should Cover Sports (2)

not actual ERR News staff (Postimees/Scanpix)
4/3/2014 3:50 PM
Category: Opinion

ERR's sports chief Marko Kaljuveer was sacked last week, for preferring larger sporting events, such as the football World Cup and the Tour de France, to small tournaments with Estonian athletes. ERR News's opinionated sports editors debated the subject over Skype as the public broadcaster's supervisory board was meeting today - inconclusively, as it turned out - to address the tensions that have flared around the subject. 

Scott Abel:

There's no 'right' answer to this question but I believe that ERR should not be involved in the World Cup broadcasts, and should re-evaluate covering other sporting events, such as the Tour de France.

Granted, the World Cup is the world's most popular spectator event every four years. But that does not mean that ERR has to be involved.

The mission statement of ERR, and all the broadcasting that fits under that banner, is to provide high-quality programming to the public. ERR is funded directly from taxes from the public, and in turn, it is freed from the complications of dealing with advertisers and worrying about raw consumption of the news product. That allows it to provide political, educational and cultural programming that simply wouldn't exist if the size of the audience was the paramount concern, like it is in commercial broadcasting.

That does not mean that quality and quantity are always separate. ETV's "Aktuaalne Kaamera" is the top-rated nightly news program in the country, beating out its commercial competitors. But make no mistake, the World Cup is driven by money. Rates are negotiated for the event with the European Broadcasting Union, and are wildly disproportionate to the size and the income of the country.

In an event where even the participation of an Estonian team can't be argued as a “cultural moment” worth following, ERR should just opt out and let the commercial marketplace figure out how to bring it to Estonia's televisions.

Juhan-Markus Laats:

The question is more about private and public sports. There are plenty of private sporting events, led by the football Champions League, which are all about commercial revenues, and ERR as a public company has no place in spending money on covering those events. But the football World Cup and the Olympic Games are different.

The World Cup is only about money to the nation holding the event, and perhaps to FIFA. The TV, internet, radio, etc rights could be sold for far more to private companies, but public broadcasters are preferred, as they can offer a better reach and cover more games. And in this case, especially concerning Estonia, private media companies showed little interest in taking over from ERR. The reason? Many game begin at 22:00 or later, a few games begin after 13:00 Estonian time.

ERR is not only about developing culture, its is about giving the people what they want if there are no private providers. Football is the number one sport in the country. Estonia is never likely to qualify for the event, so the solution is to cut the world's biggest sporting event from Estonia altogether? Finland and other nations will use a geoblock, so there's no tuning into Yle, the Finnish public broadcasting company.

Scott Abel:

It was probably a smart decision by local providers to give the World Cup a pass for the very reason that you mention, the time shift. But that will be the last Cup for awhile, at least, to have that particular issue. But you can't tell me that ETV is going to rake in much except the die-hards at those hours, either. A game that starts at 1:00 and ends around 3:00?

In a world of subscription virtual-point networks and common workarounds, like satellite packages, ETV doesn't need to be the network of last resort. I recently have been watching the American university (NCAA) basketball tournament during the last few weeks. Yes, I'm a die hard. I've stayed up until all hours of the night to watch the games, as have some other Americans that I know. It's not broadcast locally, but we had various ways to see it.

At least in the Tour de France, you actually can have a local rooting interest, although justifying programming just because an Estonian happens to get a cup of coffee in the event is dicey logic in a business sense (cough, cough, Sochi). But even we don't have that excuse with the World Cup. I'm sure that Estonians who want to see the world's most popular sport's main tournament will be able to do so, with or without ETV's help.

The World Cup will be broadcast by ETV this time, but only because of government intervention. During the next World Cup in Russia, the open market can figure it out, in a way that makes sense for both the broadcaster and the public. Meanwhile, ERR has laid off 100 employees in the last year. I wonder what could have been done in terms of staff or programming with the simple rights money, excluding the money that will be spent to send people to Brazil? ERR would be better off in the future providing programming and content that fits its charter, because it is the only one that will.

Juhan-Markus Laats:

Expecting the die-hard fans find alternative viewing possibilities will mostly mean poor-quality shady websites - few will have the means for pay-per-view or travel to Brazil. Four years ago, over 100,000 people tuned in for many games, including 112,000 for the USA versus Ghana game. It is clear people want to watch the games, most games, and it is clear private channels can not afford to show the games, so the only real alternative is ERR.

Estonia has tens of thousands of amateur footballers, even more fans. If you take away their source to watch the greatest footballing event, they will be far less motivated to play football and the nation's most popular sport will suffer. Estonia reaching the playoffs for the 2012 European Championships outweighs gold medals won at Olympic games.

As for Sochi, ERR sent eight people to cover sports where Estonia was represented with the now sacked sports chief (by the way, the correct fact is that 12 people were sacked by ERR in 2013, out of a staff of 650) himself predicting a top-20 finish maximum. He was not far off. In the debate of small sports versus big sports, ERR has so far covered the best of both – the large events which Estonia will never qualify for and the few large events where Estonia is represented but unlikely to win. If ERR spent all of its sports budget on small tournaments with Estonian representation, would people tune it at all? Women's shot put and men's figure skating for example. I would prefer USA versus Ghana any day.


The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters
{{error}}

Message forwarded to the editor

This Ip-address has limited access

See also

There are no comments yet. Be the first!

Reply to comment

+{{childComment.ReplyToName}}:
Reply to comment
Reply

Laadi juurde ({{take2}})
The name field cannot be empty
No more than 50 characters
Comment field cannot be empty
No more than 1024 characters
{{error}}
Add new comment
  • foto
    Opinion digest: Open Enterprise Estonia’s consultation services and assessments to competition
    29.11

    Enterprise Estonia handed out advice to companies, and assessed whether or not they should receive public support, without being economically accountable, lawyer Taivo Ruus wrote in a Postimees opinion piece on Monday. This needed to change, and these activities delegated to professionals.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: The Reform Party’s new role
    28.11

    After 17 years in government, Reform needed to find to a new role, and instead of being the manager of the Estonian state become a debater. How the party would get used to its new position, no longer able to dictate the political agenda, remained to be seen, said political scientist Mari-Liis Jakobson in a comment on Vikerraadio on Friday.

  • foto
    Andrus Karnau: Minister of Rural Affairs likely to be replaced
    28.11

    Speaking on Sunday’s Raadio 2 broadcast of "State of the Union," radio show host Andrus Karnau found that the scandal to break out last week involving Martin Repinski’s goat farm was likely to culminate on Monday in his replacement as a minister of the newly-installed Estonian government.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Baltic states on front line of new Cold War
    25.11

    While the Baltic states would prefer full defensive capability, NATO is emphasizing its reinforcements’ function as a deterrent. The alliance would have to round off its military presence in the area with diplomacy, and political stability and dedication to liberal democratic values would play an important role maintaining the West’s solidarity, columnist Ahto Lobjakas wrote in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Putting Rail Baltica in its strategic context
    16.11

    In an opinion piece in daily Postimees, former EU commissioner Siim Kallas points out that Rail Baltica goes far beyond considerations of its route on Estonian soil, and the money the government will have to invest. On the contrary, there is a broader European meaning that includes considering the strategic situation of Estonia.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Dynasties and democracy don't go well together
    14.11

    Speaking about the recent US presidential elections on Vikerraadio’s Sunday broadcast of "Samost and Rumm," hosts Anvar Samost and Hannes Rumm recognized that Donald Trump’s election win is being considered as the destruction of two political dynasties there, however democracy and dynasties don’t go well together anyway.

  • foto
    Opinion: Estonia’s lasting isolation
    12.11

    The fact that too many foreign journalists do not understand the Estonian language, and that they have no access to the local political culture and its players, has distorted reports abroad of what happened this week, writes ERR News editor Dario Cavegn.

  • foto
    Alo Lõhmus: Left turns and ‘silent submission’
    10.11

    The embarrassing conflation of the Reform Party’s self-image with the Estonian state is proof that it is high time they are sent into opposition, says journalist Alo Lõhmus.

  • foto
    Opinion: Getting rid of ruling party's privileges doesn't damage Estonia's reputation
    07.11

    On Friday, the ministers of the Social Democrats (SDE) and the Pro Patra and Res Publica Union (IRL) began calling back Reform Party members from the boards of state-owned companies and funds. The Reform Party’s reaction was an announcement published on Sunday — a rather strange one, finds ERR News editor Dario Cavegn.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Ärma is more than just numbers
    05.11

    Ärma Farm’s funding scandal was overshadowing the achievements of Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ presidency, including the fact that Estonia had benefited from state visits that Ilves hosted in Ärma, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) said to ERR on Thursday.

  • foto
    Benno Schirrmeister: Do Estonians dream of electric sheep?
    03.11

    On a journalist exchange in Estonia, Benno Schirrmeister of Bremen’s TAZ is highly informed, yet a blank slate as far as a foreigner’s experience of Estonia is concerned. In his first op-ed about Tallinn, he spots something beyond IT that Estonia could advertise — but doesn’t.

  • foto
    Erkki Bahovski: Was 1940 approach better than modern journalism's 'war hysteria'?
    01.11

    Linguist Urmas Sutrop has claimed that Estonian journalism is scaring people with the specter of war. Editor-in-Chief of monthly magazine Diplomaatia Erkki Bahovski, however, doesn’t agree.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Kremlin in danger of losing sense of reality
    25.10

    According to Ingo Mannteufel, head of the Department for Russia and Europe at Deutsche Welle, there is a possibility of the Kremlin starting to believe its own propaganda, which could lead to dangerous decisions both domestically and internationally.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Estonia’s stagnating politics
    21.10

    Estonia’s largest political parties had been going through the most serious crisis in their existence, and on top of that they had lost their most important function, namely to formulate a vision of the country’s future, daily Postimees wrote in its Friday editorial.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Putin exploiting power vacuum created by U.S. presidential elections
    20.10

    According to director of Tallinn’s International Centre for Defence and Security and former ambassador to Russia, Jüri Luik, the increased tensions over the past few weeks between Russia and the West indicate Putin’s wish to exploit the ambiguous mood before the U.S. presidential elections as much as possible.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Time to return to discussing serious issues
    19.10

    In a stinging opinion piece in published in the daily Eesti Päevaleht, member of the Riigikogu Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform) condemned the Estonian media as well as the country’s elites for their obsession with what he sees as pointless topics, while disregarding the last few weeks’ unsettling developments concerning Russia.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Legally speaking, everything is proper
    18.10

    After Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ decade in office, and after he promoted Estonia like no other president did before him, his legacy is now tainted by the fact that he seems to have gone for a substantial state grant in 2006 that he never put to use — and of which he will now pay back just a tenth.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Closer to Warsaw, farther away from Estonia
    14.10

    In a recent opinion piece in daily Postimees, columnist Ahto Lobjakas wrote that one way to look at Rail Baltic was as a step towards the level other countries had already reached in terms of speed and comfort of their railway connections. The main weakness of this point of view was the fact that in Estonia, it lacked the necessary social context.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Leadership change in Reform needed for potential coalition with Center Party
    13.10

    For a potential future coalition with the Center Party, the Reform Party needed to change its leader as well, Social Democratic MP and chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser wrote in a comment on social media on Friday.

  • foto
    Matthew Crandall: President Ilves’ global impact
    11.10

    The greatest accomplishment of President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is that he branded Estonia as a modern and innovative 21st century country, and brought it out of post-Soviet obscurity, writes Tallinn University’s Matthew Crandall.

  • foto
    The shackles of history and modern life in the fast lane: Estonia's experience in the migration crisis
    06.10

    The uncertain public performances of Estonian politicians and poor explanatory work were to blame for a considerable increase in public distrust during the migration crisis, found ERR journalist Greete Palmiste, working in Bremen on an international journalists' exchange, in an opinion piece written for German publication taz.die Tageszeitung.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Kersti Kaljulaid on the concepts of ethical nationalism and confident Estonians
    29.09

    On Friday, Aug. 12, Estonian representative to the European Court of Auditors Kersti Kaljulaid delivered a patriotic speech on the Postimees Stage at the 2016 Opinion Festival in Paide in which she expanded on two words and two respective ideas she found important for her country that were represented by the two letter Es in its native-language name Eesti: eetiline (ethical) and enesekindel (confident).

  • foto
    This mess we're in: Picking up the pieces after Saturday's elections
    28.09

    From Saturday’s election fiasco to Tuesday’s sudden emergence of a likely cross-party candidate: ERR News editor Dario Cavegn makes an attempt at explaining Estonia’s seemingly chaotic quest to find its next president.

  • foto
    Opinion: The decline of Estonian as a language of science starts abroad
    20.09

    The Estonian language as a language of science is only sustainable in those subject areas that offer undergraduate courses in Estonian, and with which students begin their university education, finds ERR science portal editor Marju Himma.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Current approach to reform won't help municipalities
    19.09

    The Center Party’s presidential candidate, Mailis Reps, wrote in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees on Sunday that the Administrative Reform Act was a disappointment to Estonia’s municipalities, and that relations between local and central government were in a crisis.

  • foto
    Opinion: Jüri Nikolajev in response to the Ida-Viru secret memo
    16.09

    Describing himself as "wearily spiteful" instead of angry, ERR's Narva correspondent Jüri Nikolajev responded to the top secret memo on Ida-Viru County that leaked recently, calling Estonians to figuratively not leave their property laying around if they did not want anyone else to take it for themselves.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Sulev Vedler on the secret memo on Ida-Viru County
    15.09

    In 2015, the Government Security Committee received a secret memo containing a dark assessment of the future of Ida-Viru County, Estonia's most northeastern and predominantly Russian-speaking county, which was compiled by Ilmar Raag, who worked as a strategic communicatins advisor at the Stenbock House at the time. Estonian journalist Sulev Vedler responded to the memo by compiling various reactions to issues it addressed.

  • foto
    Opinion: Alo Lõhmus on the definition of Estonian citizen by blood
    14.09

    Journalist Alo Lõhmus explored the right to Estonian citizenship by "jus sanguinis," Latin for right of blood, as it relates to one's eligibility to run for president — an issue which has had particular attention drawn to it recently after members of a competing political party attempted to cast doubt on the status of presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand's Estonian citizenship.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Erkki Bahovski on Finland and the alleged Baltic scheming
    13.09

    Columnist Erkki Bahovski commented on the curious, decidedly defensive turn that seemed to be taken by Finland's Social Democrats following the release of a lengthy report by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (UPI) which suggested that Russia, in its own self-interest, is attempting to hamper Finland's total integration with the West.

  • foto
    Opinion digest: Siim Kallas thinks real estate tax effective way to finance local government
    13.09

    The Reform Party’s presidential candidate, Siim Kallas, said in an opinion piece published in daily Postimees that an estate tax, more precisely a tax levied on real estate, could be considered to finance local government.