Postimees, Estonia's largest daily newspaper, has rowed back from calls from the main media umbrella group for state aid directly tailored to the private media sector during the coronavirus pandemic. Postimees still intends to make use of more general mitigating measures such as support for home newspaper delivery in more remote areas, the paper's editor-in-chief Mart Raudsaar says.
One potential issue at stake regarding state aid for private sector media companies is concerns about editorial independence once the aid has been forthcoming.
Raudsaar noted in a Postimees piece (link in Estonian) that media companies have so far received indirect support during the current coronavirus emergency situation arising from applications from the Estonian Newspaper Association (EML), involving the reduction of VAT on digital subscriptions, and support for domestic delivery of newspapers in rural areas, neither of which should have issues related to editorial independence, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
The EML has however asked for the state to purchase advertising space in the Estonian press, to the tune of around a million euros per month, to year end, and this brings more questions with it of editorial independence, Raudsaar went on.
"There is still a request from the media union for the government to buy advertisements in the Estonian press for one million euros every month, and until the end of the year, for a total of eight million euros. Postimees does not want our journalistic independence to be called into question.."
In mid-April, the EML proposed to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), who is also head of the emergency situation, that the state organize large-scale campaigns in all private media channels through to year-end, and also that the European Commission could permit member states to reduce VAT on all media output to zero percent.
The EML had also suggested state support for journalistic staff to a total of 40 percent through to the end of July, but this was rejected by the government.
Part of the Postimees Group, Postimees is Estonia's largest daily, tracing its lineage to the 19th century. It is available in regional variants in Tartu and Pärnu; the group also owns and operates several other regional dailies including Sakala, Saarte Hääl and Viru Teataja.
Editor: Andrew Whyte