The Association of Estonian Broadcasters (ERL) has sent an appeal to the Estonian government in which it has asked the latter to consider the opportunity to support radio and broadcasting organizations during the crisis period.
ERL board chairman Toomas Vara explained that the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the associated emergency situation is very directly affecting the operations of private radio stations and TV channels operating in Estonia, and that radio stations whose revenue bases are 100 percent reliant on the ad market have found themselves in a particularly difficult situation.
Vara noted that compared with 2019, the radio market lost €220,000 in March, and will lose €620,000 in April. In other words, within the first two months of the crisis alone, private radio stations are already losing €840,000.
"In the second quarter of this year, we are forecasting a drop of 55-60 percent on year, or €1.75 million," he said. "From March through June, an estimated €2 million will be lost from the radio ad market."
Vara wrote that assuming that the government finds the survival of private media important to the normal functioning and balancing of society, the association is asking it to consider the opportunity to support radio and broadcasting organizations operating in Estonia during the crisis period.
The association has suggested four possible opportunities for directing extraordinary state aid.
1. Fees paid to authors, performers and photogram producers (Estonian Authors' Society, Estonian Performers Association, Estonian Association of Phonogram Producers).
2. Subsidization of technical transmission costs. Estonia's private radio stations use the services of various service providers to broadcast their signal to listeners, the largest on the market of which is AS Levira, which is partially state-owned.
3. Significantly increasing the volume of state agencies' public information campaigns. Regardless of the coronavirus, various ministries and agencies constantly have dozens of media campaigns going on, all of which could be directed severalfold to private channels. This way, state aid would help achieve several different goals, because in addition to supporting private media, the state's messages would also increasingly reach its citizens.
4. Temporary exemption from labor taxes and/or VAT from March through June 2020.
The Association of Estonian Broadcasters is a non-governmental nonprofit representing the interests of radio and TV organizations. The association has 17 members, including three TV organizations, 13 radio organizations and one video producer.
Minister promises support
ERR reported on Wednesday that the Association of Media Companies sent a letter to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), the person in charge of the emergency situation, proposing that the state organize extensive social campaigns via all private media channels at a volume of €1 million per month through at least the end of the year.
It also cited that the European Commission may legalize the opportunity and allow member states to reduce the VAT on media products to 0 percent, and requested that the implementation of this opportunity be considered in Estonia as well, which could provide an estimated €4.6 million in relief over the year.
In an appearance on ETV's "Esimene stuudio" on Wednesday, Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) said that the government will certainly support private media one way or another during the crisis.
The Association of Media Companies had previously sought to have the state compensate the wage costs of employees connected to the production of journalistic content to the extent of 40 percent through the end of July. The government did not support this request.
Editor: Aili Vahtla