Postimees Group plans making TV channel free during emergency situation

Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) in studio on Kanal 2's flagship
Finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) in studio on Kanal 2's flagship "Reporter" current affairs show. Source: Screenshot.

Postimees Group says it wants to broadcast its Kanal 2 TV channel as a free-access, nationwide service, as a result of the coronavirus emergency situation. The channel has been a paid cable service since 2017. Postimees Group says urban flight in the emergency situation is a factor in its decision.

"Since March 12, Estonia has been in a new situation - a state of emergency. This has already changed our economic and social situation. The big change is that people are leaving cities for their country houses, cottages. In these places people have access to free-to-air channels," Postimees Group board member Nele Laev said, using an ERR article (link in Estonian) to back this up.

Laev also added the changing economic situation, where people are starting to cut costs, including cable operator fees, as well as the expectation of greater access to information, as factors.

"Postimees Group has already decided to make Kanal 2 content even more news-centric, to ensure its viewers are fully informed about the crisis. However, this information is not available to many people who have left the city today," the group wrote to prime minister, and overall manager of the emergency situation, Jüri Ratas (Center). The same letter was also sent to culture minister Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) and the Consumer Protection and Technical Surveillance Authority (TTJA).

Postimees Group broadcast Kanal 2 free-of-charge until August 1, 2017, when it became a paid service. It has started negotiations with digital services provider Levira on the technical issues of returning to free-to-air.

Nele Laev said there were three possible options for doing this:

1) Allow the acces free on an exceptional bass and to an accelerated time schedule. Jüri Ratas could expedite this under Article 24 (5) of the Emergency Act. Normally, under the Media Services Act, the process and competition considerations are lengthier.

2) Restoring the license held for free access prior to July 21 2017. When the Postimees Group applied for its paid-access license, the old free-to-air license still had some years to run and would still be valid today. This decision is down to either the TTJA, the culture minister or under the powers of the Emergency Act.

3) Grant temporary authorization, which under the Media Services Act can be granted for a period of up to one month on a specific event (i.e. the coronavirus pandemic).

Pollsters Kantar Emor say that Kanal 2 had a 6.7 percent market share by view time in February, compared with 18.9 percent for ETV and 6.0 percent for commercial channel TV3.

Postimees Group is one of two major private media companies in Estonia, and publishes daily Postimees, as its name suggests, and the dailies regional variants, as well as several radio channels.

ETV is the flagship TV channel of public broadcaster ERR, along with ETV2 and the Russian-language ETV+. It is free to view, with the exception of bought-in foreign shows if viewed outside Estonia.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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