ERR chief: Work on new TV house construction could start next year

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ERR Board Chair Erik Roose. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Breaking ground on a planned new television house for public broadcaster ERR should go ahead next year, the organization's management board chair Erik Roose says.

Talking to ERR radio show "Vikerhommik" Wednesday morning, Roose said that while amendments have needed to be made to the original planning filed for the proposed building, which will be located between the existing News House (Uudistemaja) and Radio House on Kreutzwaldi in central Tallinn, 2022 is the year when, it is hoped, work will commence.

The coronavirus pandemic and its effects is not the only factor in consideration – the original schedule saw ground due to be broken in 2020 – planning considerations also played their part, since Supreme Court precedents illustrated that the original winning architectural design would need to be amended.

Roose joked that a recent bomb threat received by ERR came slightly to early to remove the existing TV house on nearby Gonsiori, which ERR will be selling, but which is depreciated to the extent that this will take place at a loss. TV will continue to be broadcast from the existing premises until the new house is ready, Roose added.

The state budget component of funding towards the new house comes to an estimated €22 million, while €10 million is still needed, Roose said. An additional property in Kadriorg which belongs to ERR will also be sold to make up the shortfall, he said.

As reported by ERR News, the winning architectural design was announced in 2019, while the tender process for construction will be the next step.

Roose also touched on, when asked by the presenters, a long-running dispute which arose when representatives of private media companies filed a complaint with the European Commission citing unfair competition – given ERR's content is free and the commercial sites must charge subscription fees.

Roose said that similar conversations are going on in many countries, often to no great effect – even in neighboring Finland, whose public broadcaster, Yle, is still able to run full news articles rather than the short summaries the private firms their had sought – but that nonetheless the process was now underway and would likely drag on for many months.

The current media landscape in Estonia is closer to Roose's ideal symbiosis of private and public media, he added, noting his original platform when he applied for the post – which he took up in 2017 – included calls for online news to be available to younger persons, via the public broadcaster (which also follows its own best practices, as well as practices enshrined in law, unlike the private sector firms – ed.).

Roose called the recent rights deal which sees commercial station Kanal 2, part of the Postimees Group, bringing free-to-air coverage of the postponed 2020 Tokyo games later this year, as well as the 2024 games in Paris, as not being the most transparent, however.

While ERR offered a higher sum than it had for the previous olympics in Rio, at a time when sports has a smaller budget than before, this was not a bottomless pit which should be used at both the taxpayer's expense and that of other, non-olympic sports coverage, he said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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