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Paul Rebane: Our actions are dictated by the sun, not the government

Raul Rebane.
Raul Rebane. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

We are governed by the sun, not by the government. How this is so can be particularly evident when you look at your TV viewing habits, and there is a whole science behind what we choose to watch and why, Raul Rebane reported in Vikerraadio's daily commentary earlier this week.

Let us start with [journalist] Juhan Peegel's (1919-2007) assertion that everything that passes through the individual does so through a biased lens. In other words, regardless of gender, age, profession and education, the initial human reaction is always emotional.

Mood and and feelings are vital to our behavior. However, the role of the sun is also particularly great when it comes to creating our moods, as it dictates the seasons. And so media planners have to take this into account at all times.

As the seasons and quarters are three months long, the moods of each season can be very different, while the latitude where you choose to live plays a major role here too.

On the equator, the sun rises at six in the morning and sets at six in the evening, 365 days a year. I've been there and it actually seemed quite repetitive. The major variations we have here in Estonia are surely more interesting than that.

For example, we have TV "seasons" somewhere from about January 10 to Midsummer, or 22 weeks, followed by 11 weeks of summer, then 16 weeks for the fall season, and three weeks of Christmas and New Year.

This distribution is determined by our latitude, and the habits that go along with it.

The behavior seen in our short summers is significantly different from that of autumn. People make the most of the sun, so for this reason, for example, ETV's "Suveringvaade" ("Summer Ringvaade") starts at 9:30 p.m.; there simply would be no viewers earlier than that.

You must have noticed that many TV schedules end their seasons in May, as the sun and the blossoms win out over the TV.

Around October 10, farmers used to start having their weddings, once the autumn work was over. Nowadays the media can run a full schedule at that time; for example, show soap operas, as it is already getting dark in the late afternoon and people are increasingly heading indoors.

We are in the middle of one special season, that lasts about three weeks, right now. Over Christmas and the New Year, people are in a kinder mood. Especially older people, and families with children, are searching for some under-control, positive emotions. The only exception to this would be if a major, life-changing disaster were to happen. The last time this happened was the December 26, 2004 tsunami, in the Indian Ocean.

In more normal years, movies like "Die Hard" get shown for the umpteenth time, or the TV play "Dinner for One" gets shown for the twentieth time, yet they always attract viewers. During the Soviet Union era, "The Irony of Fate " (Estonian: "Saatuse iroonia ehk hüva leili", Russian: "Ironiya sud'by, ili S lyogkim parom!") was broadcast annually and without exception, in Russia.

We highly value our rituals. For example, on December 25, the BBC always broadcast's the Queen's, or, now, the King's, Christmas Broadcast, followed by a movie. Last year that was "Aladdin", but for many years, for example, the classic "White Christmas" featuring Bing Cosby had been shown.

We have the same thing. Mood and rituals are important. People are generally friendly and helpful during this period. "Jõulutunnel" always raises money. Younger people would probably like more smut and ruckus, but there are those channels where you can find that too. It's interesting that when these younger people get a bit older, say 40 or more, they don't stick to these more abrupt choices in most cases, but start looking for more sedate things, even classics.

Be especially careful when altering your rituals. On New Year's Eve, some humor, the president's speech plus the national anthem are especially central. Tampering with these could cause a lot of trouble. Once, the anthem was missed out, and there was absolute outrage. More recently, the anthem at the children's song festival was particularly beautiful and emotion-laden.

The president's speech on that evening is not an essentially grand strategy, but sets the tone for the mood of the coming year, and is important as such.

Every year someone suggests that it might be canceled and the next day there could be a bigger conversation. I suggest not messing with the formula. Our cyclical calendar is different anyway, because February 24 (Independence Day – ed.) soon arrives, and at that point the grander strategies can be developed.

Nothing good can come of trying to violate people's moods,. The experience of different countries demonstrates that somewhere from December 20 through to the end of the first week of January, major social debates, criticism and problems are not to be aired.

Things were was bad in this respect, at the end of the past year. By the evening of December 22 ahead of "Aktuaalne kaamera," the show "Õhtune vöönd" was scheduled, which would at the request of its creators have been very critical and conflict-provoking. There may have been some truths there, but the timing and location wall off. So there are many lessons to be drawn from this incident.

To sum up:. The vast majority of our moods, attitudes and feelings are not cooked up by governments and the media, but by the sun cycle. Getting angry at the sun is, however, rather fruitless, and it is better if you try to practice a peaceful coexistence with it. It is thoughts like these which came to mind on the morning of January 3.


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Editor: Kaupo Meiel, Andrew Whyte

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