ERR Russian-language channel often outstripping outside stations

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ETV+ 'Kofe+' logo. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

ERR's Russian-language TV channel, ETV+, has continued to show strong growth. The channel provides an important counter to big budget, Kremlin-controlled stations which also actively broadcast in Estonia and the Baltic States, and by some metrics is now more popular than these offerings.

The coronavirus crisis has without a doubt raised the importance and relevance of the channel, providing as it does accurate and local public information on the virus.

The major commercial Russian channels, which includes a dedicated Baltic States' channel (PBK) still each outstrip ETV+ in terms of overall viewing time, but at certain periods ETV+, which has been in operation for well over five years, finds itself the most widely-viewed channel at that point in time.

Viewing figures also continue to grow, however, and viewer loyalty appears to be stronger than for more generic, non-Estonian focused, or produced, Russian stations.

In 2020, 325,000 people said they watched ETV+ for at least a 15 minute stretch in a month, while the weekly figure stood at 200,000. In both indicators, the channel was the strongest from the suite of Russian-language stations broadcasting (in other words other channels would have had, for instance, fewer people watching over longer time-spans etc.).

Head of ETV+, Ekaterina Taklaja, noted that: "300,000 people watch us every month and about 220,000 every week. These figures are better than those of our competitors, meaning PBK, NTV and RTR."

ETV+ also presents plenty of current affairs and discussion-type shows, rather than wall-to-wall Russian and international pop music or glitzy variety shows.

Tallinna TV, operated by the city government, also broadcasted in Russian and Estonian nationwide at one point, but halted most of its activities last fall.

The station remains small budget-wise, with just €2 million per year earmarked out of the wider ERR budget, meaning it cannot compete with the Russian Federation channels in terms of own content. News shows include the Russian-language "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) and the morning and evening news bulletins broadcast from ERR's news house, a separate building from the TV house, both of which mirror the Estonian-language news shows of the same name. 

Other flagship shows include morning magazine "Kofe+", analgous to ETV's "Terevisioon", and discussion shows "Kto, kovo" ("who versus whom") and "Svoe pravda" ("Own truth"), while sports and important events coverage is also home produced. Bought-in Russian-language shows make up the remainder. 

While the channel is not without its issues, both in terms of finance and finding guests of an adequate caliber, presenters include news anchor Uljana Kuzmina, who started with AK Estonian, and has been working at ERR for a decade now. 

Many Estonian-speaking guests who are fluent in Russian also appear, with perhaps one of "Kofe+" highlights so far being then-interior minister Andres Anvelt's appearance, during which he demonstrated his regular morning workout routine. Other notable guests have included no less than two British Army corporals, both of whose mother tongue is Russian. As such, they have proven instrumental in the British-led NATO battlegroup's community outreach, in Narva and other locations with large Russian-speaking populations. Readers with Russian can catch the "Kofe+" interviews with both soldiers: Natalya Platonova, who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and whose parents relocated to Malta, here, and George Swain, whose parents emigrated to the U.K. from Kyiv, Ukraine, when he was a boy, here.

Head of ERR News and Sport Anvar Samost says he regularly tunes in to ETV+.

"I watch the talk shows and daily political shows; there are stimulating things from time-to-time. I have occasionally watched some of the movies, since there is a different selection of films (from those on ETV or ERR's live-streaming service, Jupiter – ed.) which may be interesting for my age group,"

Co-presenter of "Kofe+", Andrei Titov, who, together with co-host Jelena Solomina has, for the past five years, had to rise at an ungodly hour five days a week to get the breakfast show on the road, says that the popularity of the show seems to have been growing, and not only in the Russian-speaking community.

"My [Estonian-speaking ] neighbor, for example, told me that he used only to watch "Terevisioon" in the morning, but now watches it and 'Kofe+' in alternation," Titov told ERR.

The arrival of the pandemic saw simultaneous translations of the daily government press conferences which took place during the initial spring 2020 wave, while the channel continues to bring important public information on restrictions, testing, infection rates, vaccines etc.

ERR also operates a Russian-language portal, while Raadio 4 is the Russian-language radio station.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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