Riigikogu committee chair: ERR TV house can be funded by Kultuurikapital

Winning architectural design for the proposed new ERR TV house (orientation: North at top right hand corner of image).
Winning architectural design for the proposed new ERR TV house (orientation: North at top right hand corner of image). Source: Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid

Financing the construction of a long-awaited TV house to be used by public broadcaster ERR is viable from the Cultural Endowment Fund (Kultuurikapital), the chair of the Riigikogu's culture committee said Tuesday.

MP Heljo Pikhof (SDE), who heads up the Riigikogu Cultural Affairs Standing Committee, said that this could be done if revenue from the state's gambling tax could be boosted.

Pikhof said: "If we look at the general situation, there are many cultural objects that are all waiting for a build or renovation, if only the funds for that could be issued."

"As we are now talking about the construction of a new TV complex to be used by ERR, it is currently possible to add this to the existing scheme for funding cultural objects," she went on.

Pikhof added that when during coalition negotiations in spring the issue of raising the gambling tax rate was examined, the idea was floated that
the construction of the ERR TV house could be financed in that way.

The cultural endowment fund currently receives a total of 47.8 percent of the revenue collected from the gambling tax. Of this sum, 60.6 percent goes towards the construction of culturally important buildings, 3.8 percent towards promoting the creative work of teaching staff, while the remainder, ie. 35.6 percent, is distributed between county expert groups from each of Estonia's 15 counties, plus to eight endowment funds.

Pikhof said she has also consulted with Margus Allikmaa, who heads up Kutuurikapital, and said that no legislative amendments would be needed, rather the proportions of funding within the gambling tax law should be amended accordingly, so that the 60.2 percent provided for the construction of cultural buildings includes the ERR TV complex – which would receive 20 percent of the total from there, she said.

Allikmaa is a former board chair of ERR.

Ultimately it is down to the Riigikogu to rule on the proportions revenues received from the gambling tax should be divided into, Pikhof added.

Heljo Pikhof (SDE). Source: Erik Peinar/Office of the Riigikogu

The Riigikgu's cultural committee had started looking for a legal solution in regard to obtaining funding from the TV house at the beginning of August.

The Cultural Endowment Fund had up to now five objects, ie. buildings, which were to be the recipient of support for their reconstruction or refurbishment; one of these is the National Library (Rahvaraamatukogu), which is currently undergoing extensive renovation.

However, these buildings had been deemed of national cultural importance, whereas the as-yet unbuilt TV house did not qualify in this way.

Earlier, in May, Tallinn City Government had established a detailed plan in respect of the proposed new ERR TV house.

This would replace the somewhat dilapidated current facility on Gonsiori, with a newly built complex a short distance away and between the current Radio House (Raadio maja) on Gonsiori, and the News House (Uudistemaja) on Kreutzwaldi, on a plot which has long been used as a staff parking lot.

The design process started back in 2018, with  Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid OÜ's offering "Roheline lina" (pictured) being awarded the tender.

The build cost is estimated at €65 million.

However, since then, the project has been mired in budgetary issues and politicking, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic which began not after the design of the new TV house was unveiled.

The Riigikogu is expected to make a final decision on financing the TV house by the end of this year, while the culture committee is to discuss the aforementioned funding source proposal next Tuesday.

Pikhof added that the majority of members of the committee have so far supported using the cultural endowment resources for the funding, meaning the plan is likely to find support at the Riigikogu when put on the agenda, which it will be from September 1.

" I can't predict the behavior of the opposition, but we can certainly take this on this year, of that I am certain," Pikhof went on.

"If we look at the state budget today, Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev has said that there is no money to build a new building for ERR, so we have to find it in the Cultural Endowment Fund. And as I said before, there is indeed money for that within the fund as it is today," she added.


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Editor: Mari Peegel, Andrew Whyte

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