Samost and Sildam: State nominations committee could appoint ERR board

Anvar Samost (right) and Toomas Sildam, hosts of
Anvar Samost (right) and Toomas Sildam, hosts of "Samost ja Sildam". Source: ERR

Nominations to public broadcaster ERR's supervisory board could take place via the state firms' nomination committee, senior ERR journalists Anvar Samost and Toomas Sildam say.

Speaking on Sunday's edition of Vikerraadio show "Samost ja Sildam", Anvar Samost said that: "After all, we have this excellent and mostly well-executed body, the nomination committee, which has been set up to avoid political influence in the appointment of board members of state-owned companies."

Sildam agreed, though suggested the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) could be the body to make the appointments.

The pair were making their comments in the light of last week's news that the Riigikogu's cultural affairs committee is proposing Peeter Espak, Priit Hõbemagi and Viktor Trasberg as the new supervisory board members at ERR.

Economist Viktor Trasberg was a member of the Center Party until April 16. Academic Peeter Espak was a member of the Free Party until March 26. Priit Hõbemägi is a journalist at Eesti Ekspress, and a lecturer in journalism at Tallinn University.

All three have been seen by many as government-approved candidates, supported by all three coalition parties (Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa).

This is despite the fact that, under the terms of the Public Broadcasting Act which founded ERR in 2007 as a merger of TV and radio broadcasting, each elected Riigikogu party, currently five, has a representative on the supervisory board in any case – in other words the supervisory board is supposed to consist of one representative of each party, plus four independent experts (three of whose posts are up for replacement-ed.).

Anvar Samost also questioned the competencies of some of the proposed candidates.

"The question is not what their political independence is, but what their expertise is in a field where they will go on to do very important work for five years is," Samost noted. 

"The ERR supervisory council is not an arbitrary chat room. One might assume that this person has clarified for themselves - either through past experience or separately - what the media is, what the press is, what the aims of public service media from the point of view of society are. Also [board members should form opinions on] more technical matters like media management, TV, radio and digital media," he added.

"It has also been the will of the legislator, where they have written into the law that four experts should be recognized experts in the field of national broadcasting," Sildam noted.

According to the Public Broadcasting Act, the ERR supervisory board is the highest governing body that plans the activities of national broadcasting, organizes the management and supervises the activities of the management board. 

The supervisory board submits a written and oral report on its activities to the Riigikogu Culture Committee once per year year. 

The council consists of members of the Riigikogu - one from each faction - and four recognized experts in the field of national broadcasting, who as noted are appointed by the Riigikogu on the proposal of the Riigikogu Culture Committee.

The task of the state companies' nomination committee (Riigi äriühingute nimetamiskomitee) is to make proposals to the minister governing the respective state company, for the election and removal of the members of the supervisory board, the number of members of the supervisory board and remuneration.

The nominations committee itself has faced claims of politicization in the recent past.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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