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Estonian Television in the 1990s: 'It took 3 days to send a fax to join Eurovision'

In celebration of 60 years of national television broadcasting, ERR News interviewed some of the prominent figures who have led the ETV during its history. Jüri Pihel was a television director and one of the main producers of ETV during the turbulent period of early 1990s. Pihel was also responsible for Estonia becoming an active member of the European Broadcasting Union and begin broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest.

Pihel said that the 1990s were the most interesting time not just for Estonian Television, but for Estonian people in general. “Can you imagine participating in television at the time when times change so much?” he asked rhetorically, adding that he is still very glad to have been part of it.

He recalled how ETV started broadcasting many new programs for the first time, until then only seen on the Western television. One of them was the Eurovision Song Contest.

“In 1992, I got a call from my friend in Sweden who said that it's now possible for Estonia to join the Eurovision, just send a fax. But I couldn't send a fax for three days, because the phone lines were so bad at the time. Then I rang a friend at a computer company, one of the first in Estonia, and with his help, finally the fax went through. And we already participated the following year. At the time, it was important for us.“

Just nine years later, Estonia won the Eurovision Song Contest and ETV hosted the competition in Tallinn in 2002.

ETV was launched on July 19, 1955, following the Soviet government's decision to establish a television station in 1953. The national TV channel, now part of Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), has maintained a unique archive which is part of a rich Estonian cultural heritage, and still produces more original programs than any private channel. ETV2 was introduced in 2008, focusing mainly on educational programs and documentaries. ETV+, a Russian-language channel, will start broadcasting this autumn.

Editor: S. Tambur

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