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Estonia launches its first Russian-language TV channel

A broadcasting history was made on Monday, when ETV+, Estonian Public Broadcasting’s (ERR) first Russian-language TV-channel, finally launched.

Almost a year in the making and long preparations behind, the channel went on air with a morning program “Coffee+” at 06:55 earlier today.

Darja Saar, the editor-in-chief of the new channel, told ERR that ETV+’s program is set for now, but may see some adjustments later on, once the channel is more familiar with its audience and its expectations.

Saar conceded that ahead of the launch, there has been both negative and positive attitude towards the new channel, with many expressing scepticism in its ability to attract Russian viewers. Sceptics say that with its tiny budget, it is hard to compete with Russian TV-channels, which have considerably larger resources at their disposal. But Saar is full of positive energy and ready to prove the cynics wrong.

Although described by some foreign media outlets as Estonia’s propaganda tool against Kremlin, ERR and the ETV+ editors have rejected these assumptions.

The fact remains that most of the ethnic Russians in Estonia follow Russian TV-channels, some of which support Moscow’s soft power and Kremlin’s quest for the “Russian world”. Following the hybrid war in Crimea and events in Ukraine, Estonian government and public in general became increasingly worried about the aligning of local Russian population – majority of whom are known to be loyal to the Republic of Estonia, but some of whom may be distracted by the Russian media sphere, which is lately known to distort the truth.

ETV+ will attempt to play its part in helping to engage the local Russian-speaking population more and ensure that they will have the adequate picture of Estonian society. “The aim is for Russian-language speakers in Estonia to reach other Russian-language speakers in the nation, and introduce different aspects of life in Estonia,” Saar said in spring, ahead of the launch.

She added that Russian media repeatedly encircled her with questions, trying to figure out whether the new channel is Estonian government’s mouthpiece or not, and what are its political leanings. “For example, I had to answer three times the question whether in my opinion Crimea is annexed or liberated,” Saar recalled.

Apart from the morning talk show, another original feature will be aired on the channel’s first day – a travel show, which will discover predominantly Russian-speaking Ida-Viru County in its first episode.

There will also be cultural shows and analytical programs, investigating social issues and debating current affairs.

The rest of the ETV+ will be filled with documentaries, movies and educational programs.

ETV+ will begin with an annual budget of approximately 4 million euros.

You can watch the channel online here.

Editor: S. Tambur

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