Tiina Kaalep: Main goal facing Raadio 2 is to recoup lost listeners

Tiina Kaalep outside the ERR Radio House in Tallinn.
Tiina Kaalep outside the ERR Radio House in Tallinn. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Changes to flagship Raadio 2 channel' s programming are inevitable in the light of falling listener figures, ERR management board member Tiina Kaalep says.

Speaking to morning show "Vikerhommik" last week, Kaalep said that Raadio 2's main target audience is younger people and that, while in its early days it met this aim effectively, in more recent years, listener numbers have been flagging.

This makes changes to the channel's format inevitable, she added.

"Raadio 2 is 30 years old now. The fifth programming format change is now underway," Kaalep told "Vikerhommik," broadcast by another ERR channel, Vikerraadio.

In the early years, Raadio 2, also known as R2, was primarily a talk radio channel and a variety of musical styles have been used in interludes, aimed at setting the tone.

It started to move towards the current R2 format back in 2004, when present-day Culture Minister Heidy Purga (Reform) was at the helm.

"That change was about as disruptive as will be the case with today's," Kaalep went on.

"What had worked very well in 2004, 2008, 2010, or 2015, needs to be changed nowadays," she noted. "We have lost one listener in three between 2018 and 2022."

"When I hear and read that ERR should not be tracking its figures, then yes, we can be comfortable with five, 10 or 15 percent [losses]; but every third listener is a very high figure. We lost half of our evening period listeners just last year. For this reason, the board decided that R2 needs a serious format change, and our expectation for the new management is very straightforward: Bring back the listeners we lost in the intervening time, and find new, young listeners," Kaalep continued.

Kaalep stressed that funding is not the only factor behind calls for a format change to R2, but since ERR's budget is not set to rise in 2024, R2 will have to continue with the same budget as it has this year. 

"Those editorial choices that the current new editor-in-chief makes together with the content manager certainly mean a redistribution of resources within the schedule," she added.

The last major format change Raadio 2 underwent was as noted nearly 20 years ago, in 2004. 

The channel's new editor-in-chief, Margus Kamlat, says that in those two decades, the profile of media consumption has changed wholesale for most people, meaning something has to be done regarding the channel.

Kamlat said: "An individual decides for themselves when they consume, what they consume, and how they do so. We can create a big schedule and broadcasts, but if there are no listeners or only a very small listenership, then we will end up endlessly tilting at windmills."

"We will have to start moving with the times; we need to go to those places and platforms where people are, and where the material reaches. For instance, there are a significant number of shows that get listened to, as people don't only listen to their radio at ten or eleven at night, to their favorite show."

Kamlat concurred with Kaalep that Raadio 2 has reached the point where the redistribution of resources within the editorial office is also required.

He said: "We lack the resources to create such a large volume of shows. We have more than a hundred people working at Raadio 2 who are involved in the creation of programs. For this reason, the 'price' of a program is absolutely, criminally low," referring to production values.

"We are no longer able to make savings anywhere within the program schedule, or hike fees, and we can't demand so much from the presenters either. We just can't manage this program anymore," he added.

Tiina Kaalep stated that a recent survey from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) revealed that the 16-24-year-old age group exhibits the greatest variety in the use of different streaming platforms when listening to music. 

She also noted that while younger people listen to podcasts for an average of 55 minutes per day, a total of 46 minutes are devoted to radio. "This latest study demonstrates, for the first time, that young people tend to listen to podcasts more than just music on the radio."

Margus Kamlat said he believes that the R2 schedule also has shows that would come across better as a podcast than on the air in the traditional way. "When a show is on the air, it has to meet certain standards," he said.

"This is not offered as a reproach to anyone, but rather that we are not able to deal with these people and shows in the editorial office; to motivate them enough. Remaking a program does not go ahead in such a way that we would abandon all its principles, certainly not. It is simply a case of airing certain things at a better time, and bringing things together," the editor-in-chief added.

In addition to Vikerraadio and R2, ERR's radio channels are Klassikaraadio, which as its name suggests carries classical music, both recorded and live, as well as some other relatively rarefied music forms such as jazz and folk; Raadio 4, the Russian-language channel; and Raadio Tallinn, which includes content in both English and French, as well as in Estonian.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karmen Rebane

Source: "Vikerhommik", presenters Kirke Ert and Taavi Libe.

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