The Riigikogu's Cultural Affairs Committee is awaiting the assessment of the main consumer watchdog body on the suitability of Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Varro Vooglaid as a candidate for the supervisory board at public broadcaster ERR.
As with most other public and state bodies, ERR has a supervisory board (Nõukogu) which comprises one MP from each of the represented parties (currently six), for the five-year duration of a Riigikogu composition. These are joined by four other non-partisan media experts, including the board's chair, also for five-year terms.
The supervisory board is distinct from ERR's management board, and is for the most part intended to ensure neutrality.
Vooglaid was elected an EKRE MP at the March 5 Riigikogu election but whether he can sit on ERR's supervisory board, as proposed by the party hinges on whether he qualifies as a media service provider, given a foundation he heads, the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition (SAPTK), includes the operation of online news portal Objektiiv.
This decision is to be made by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA).
Under the terms of the 2007 act which dealt with the foundation of ERR, merging the formerly separate ETV and Eesti Raadio, a supervisory board member may not be an owner or shareholder of any other media service provider.
The Riigikogu's Culture Committee was due to discuss candidates for the next ERR supervisory board composition on Tuesday, but postponed this to next week while awaiting the TTJA response.
Riigikogui culture committee member Heljo Pikhof (SDE) said that if the TTJA does rule that Vooglaid, via Objektiiv, is a media service provider, then he would have to either relinquish the supervisory board seat, or step down from SAPTK.
The other parties' nominations to the ERR supervisory board for the XV Riigikogu's term are: Marek Reinaas (Eesti 200), Tõnis Mölder (Center), Valdo Randpere (Reform), Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE) and Priit Sibul (Isamaa) – the latter if approved would be returning to the post he held during the XIV Riigikogu's term.
If an MP vacates their supervisory board seat for any reason, another MP from the same party replaces them, subject to approval.
The culture committee submitted the candidates for the supervisory boards of two other major bodies which receive public funding, namely the National Library (Rahvusraamatukogu) and the National Opera (Rahvusooper).
In theses cases, only three MPs, from coalition and opposition parties, are nominated.
These are: Helmen Kütt (SDE), Anti Poolamets (EKRE) and Vilja Toomast (Reform) in the case of the national library, and Ester Karuse (Center), Signe Kivi (Reform) and Kadri Tali (Eesti 200) in the case of the opera house – Kadri Tali is a noted conductor.
The deadline for the new members of the supervisory boards, in all three cases, is May 27, while the Riigikogu committee wants the proposals to be debated at a plenary session at parliament on May 16.
Current Riigikogu Speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) had to step down from his post as Postimees editor-in-chief in order to run in the 2019 Riigikogu elections, the first the party contested, followed shortly by the 2019 European parliamentary elections.
Varro Vooglaid has in the past organized pickets of ERR.
Editor: Andrew Whyte