Private media firms issue appeal to coalition ahead of it taking office

A selection of Estonian newspapers and magazines.
A selection of Estonian newspapers and magazines. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

An address by representatives of the main private media firms in Estonia and published by at least one of them – on the website of daily Postimees – appeals to the coalition-in-waiting to resolve what it sees as a lack of media diversity, particularly in relation to public broadcaster ERR.

The address (link in Estonian), with strength in numbers in having the CEOs of Postimees Grupp, Ekspress Grupp, Äripäev and the main organization representing private media companies more broadly, complains that what it calls "aggressive expansion subsidized by the public purse," comes at the expense of the free market, a phenomenon which has been seen in several other areas, with regard to public and state bodies, the statement adds.

The open letter states that since advertising revenues in the private media sector have not risen in the past 15 years, journalistic diversity is bought "relatively cheaply", while at the same time, the statement says, ERR's own Supervisory Board (Nõukogu) oversees just that, ERR, and rubber stamps all proposed ERR development projects, yet, the address says, the supervisory board does not safeguard the entire Estonian media space, including the private media sphere

The address adds that ERR is "important" and "necessary," particularly in crises and potential crises situations, but it should not be permitted to freely expand into areas of high-quality private media – which includes titles such as Kroonika (Delfi) and Elu24 (Postimees) – not least because ERR is, the statement claims, taxpayer-funded.

The address also comes up with some directions of its own for ERR, which it refers to as the state media, in order to give the public broadcaster a "truly empowering" role for the Estonian press, for instance, the address recommends, by supporting on-site journalism in provincial Estonia, though it makes no reference to English-language media in Estonia, claiming that the media audience in Estonia is confined to Estonian-speaking and Russian-speaking consumers.

The full address (in Estonian) is here.

The signatories to the address are Ekspress Grupp CEO Mari-Liis Rüütsalu, Postimees Grupp CEO Toomas Tiivel, Äripäiv CEO Igor Rõtov and Estonian Association of Media Enterprises (EML) board member Merle Viirmaa-Treifeldt.

Ekspress Grupp's stable includes portal Delfi, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) and weeklies Eesti Ekspress and Maaleht, while Postimees Grupp publishes several regional variants across Estonia.

Major ERR projects which have so far been put on the back burner include the proposed new TV house. Ground was initially supposed to have been broken on its construction in 2020.

The EML in the past has complained about ERR's provision of news online and has said that it will take the matter to the European Commission.

Print media has been on the decline in recent years; Äripäev discontinued its paper version at the start of this year, and is now available online only, while EPL at around the same time joined Postimees and also evening paper Õhtuleht in not providing a print edition on Mondays.

ERR was formed in 2007 by statute, merging the formerly separate Estonian Radio and Estonian Television. It obtains a grant annually as part of the state budget.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Postimees

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