Estonian operators pay around €3 million per year to Russian TV channels

PBK TV journalist in the broadcaster's Riga studios.
PBK TV journalist in the broadcaster's Riga studios. Source: Ints Kalnins/Reuters/Scanpix

Estonian commercial TV customers pay up to three million euros per year in license fees, via operators, to TV broadcasters based in the Russian Federation, it has been revealed.

''Estonian citizens are charged for basic package which include payments to the larger Russian TV channels,'' Professor Jüri Pihel for the Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communications Institute (BFM) told daily Postimees.

However, since customers generally cannot opt out of what he called propaganda channels broadcast from the Russian Federation in their basic package, customers have to pay for these even if they don't want them, continued Mr. Pihel.

Several Russian channels beneficiaries

Anonymous sources put the figure Estonian operators pay to Russian channels Pervõi Baltiiski Kanalile (PBK) NTV-Mir, RTR-Planeta and Ren TV Estonia at between €2.7 and €3 million, according to Postimees.

The channels trade in Estonia under the Lavtian-registerd Baltic Media Alliance (Baltijas Mediju Alianse ‒ BMA) and Baltic Authors and Broadcasters Association (Balti Autorite ja Leviliit ‒ BALL), which is registered in Estonia. Estonian operators Elisa, Telia, STV and TVPlay Home (formerly Viasat) also carry Russian channels but have not disclosed the licence fees they pay for this.

Furthermore, if advertising revenues are factored in, the amount going to TV channels in the Russian Federation doubles to around six million euros, it has been estimated.

A loophole in current Estonia law exists since no single piece of legislation covers the activities of Russian TV channels and, at the same time, the channels are not required to comply with Estonian language legislation, since the channels are not registered in Estonia. This would necessitate Estonian-language subtitles, or audio dubbing. ERR's public TV broadcasting channels carry Estonian subtitles or simultaneous translation with all broadcasts in languages other than Estonian, including the Russian-language-only ETV+.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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