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Darja Saar: ETV+ not a propaganda channel competing with Putin

ETV+ editor-in-chief Darja Saar.
ETV+ editor-in-chief Darja Saar. Source: (ERR)

According to Darja Saar, editor-in-chief of ETV+, Estonian Public Broadcasting's Russian-language TV channel isn't meant to shape anyone, but rather produce quality content serving Estonia's Russian- and Estonian-speakers alike.

"My New Year's wish is: look at the bigger picture," Saar said on Toomas Sildam's online news show on Friday. "You don't need to make short-sighted decisions. These 300,000 [native Russian-speaking] people who live in Estonia are not objects, and our goal is not to shape them in any way."

In her opinion, the fact that half of ETV+ viewers are Estonian-speakers speaks to the fact that the TV channel has been successful in creating quality content that transcends language.

"It rubs me the wrong way when ETV+ is presented as a propaganda channel whose goal is to compete with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin," Saar said. "We are a regular TV channel."

One peculiarity arising from national law is the requirement for ETV+ to provide real-time Estonian-language captioning for all live television broadcasts. This runs the channel €50,000 per year, which Saar doesn't consider practical.

"Making this change in the Language Act would in no way threaten the Estonian language, but would improve the quality of a public service," she explained. According to current law, radio programs meant for foreign-language listeners do not need to be simultaneously translated; this requirement only extends to TV broadcasts.

Responding to suggestions coming from private media that public funding allocated to ETV+ should be redirected to the development of Delfi and Postimees' Russian-language content, Saar said that it isn't money but rather content that should be shared between various media houses and channels.

"It is completely understandable that private media would want money for themselves, but as we can see based on the [TV channel] PBK, it is difficult in that case to ensure that they are producing journalism, not content marketing," said the editor-in-chief. "At the same time, you don't need to spend money to produce content for various media houses — we are prepared to share this content." She cited an agreement in the works with Delfi's Russian-language online news portal as an example of such cooperation.

ETV+ currently employs 50 people. Saar estimates that the channel reaches approximately 300,000 viewers per week in Estonia.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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