Experts: Barring Russian channels from Estonia could have negative effect

The Russian-speaking TV audience in Estonia is dominated by three commerical channels originating in the Russian Federation (picture is illustrative).
The Russian-speaking TV audience in Estonia is dominated by three commerical channels originating in the Russian Federation (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

The changed security situation in Ukraine has raised the question of the extent to which Kremlin-controlled TV channels should be available on our cable network. According to experts, banning Russian channels would be a drastic move, that would have the opposite effect from that desired.

Up to 10 Russian-language channels can be found in the basic package of TV channels offered by Estonia's largest telecom companies. Among these are RTR, PBK and REN TV, which are under Kremlin control. This very fact is conscious incitement to hatred, Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said.

"In fact, such media should not be disseminated in Estonia; there should be no such media available in Estonia. There is no reason to show the Estonian people and the Russian people living here that Estonia is like some kind of bedbug," Pevkur said.

Pevkur sees a solution whereby companies offering cable TV channels understand the problem themselves and restrict broadcasting pro-Russian channels. Hypothetically, the Consumer Protection and Technical Surveillance Authority (TTJA) could initiate administrative proceedings.

Ulrika Paavle, the head of TTJA business department, said that there would need to be very specific grounds for this. "Incitement to hatred, incitement to commit an offense or degrading law-abiding behavior - and there have been at least two such offenses in the past year - is possible, but the European Commission, another EU Member State, a specific TV channel and the broadcaster must be contacted," Paavle said.

Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski, a media specialist from the Center Party, said that Russian channels play a role and provocative groups emerge on social media discussions rather than when watching TV at home.

"I am convinced that there is no need to ban Russian TV channels, because they provide access to Russia's domestic and foreign policy narratives, and we certainly need to be aware of what is happening," Jufereva-Skuratovski said.

Removing pro-Russian channels from cable companies' packages would resent people, says Andres Jõesaar, associate professor of media policy at Tallinn University. In his opinion, the right decisions have been made in Estonian media policy with the opening of ETV+.

"I believe that following the same path and strengthening ETV + is a more effective measure and better for the health of society than closing some channels. Rather, it should contribute to the creation of original and good content, which really captivates the Russian-speaking viewer," Jõesaar said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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