A collaboration between public broadcaster ERR, and telecoms provider Elisa, has been called into question by commercial broadcaster Kanal 2, which has complained that it will mean content supported from taxpayer funds will contribute to the profits of a private sector company.
The complaint concerns a TV series produced for the local cable streaming service market, announced by Elisa as being available to its customers in August, BNS reports. The show will later be aired by ERR.
The series, ''Üle noatera'' (English: ''Narrow escape'') is to be provided to Elisa Elamus clients, in conjunction with ETV, the television component of ERR.
"Putting it simply, Elisa is buying the rights to the program's first screening, at approximately 30 percent of the cost, and the channel is left with the rights to the second screening at approximately 70 percent of the cost,'' Kanal 2 program chief Kaspar Kaljas told BNS.
''In other words, Elisa has got for itself a program with the support of state funding, an acquistion which it would not have the resources to meet on its own. We as taxpayers are effectively supporting the program, and thus the potential profit of a private company," Kaljas continued.
ETV editor-in-chief, Marje Tõemäe responded to questions from BNS on the issue, that ETV is a co-producer in the project, meaning the idea was developed into a project with Elisa already in the picture at the initial phase, with the program going on to be co-produced by ETV and Elisa.
"That is, it's a collaboration both content- and production-wise, to which both parties have contributed financially," Tõemäe said, explaining that Elisa will get the first screening window on its platform, with the series being shown on ETV later this year.
She went on to point out that whilst the phenomenon of co-productions of this nature might be new to Estonia, it is widespread globally.
"Considering the budget at ETV has been the same for 10 years, we are trying to find new partners and new financing models in the form of co-production projects. This kind of cooperation with Elisa is a first, and is very positive," Tõemäe said.
According to Kanal 2, television stations are on the lookout for opportunities for co-production or co-financing, as their ability to invest in original output themselves has decreased somewhat.
"If private companies were engaging in this kind of co-production, nobody would be likely to be asking questions about the legitimacy of such cooperation. But when the public broadcasting company, which is financed by the people, through taxes, starts engaging in this kind of collaboration, the appropriateness of such activity may raise questions," Kanal 2 said, BNS reports.
Kanal 2 noted that, not only was the movement of value taking place in one direction, from the supporter to the producer, but via the same arrangement, private companies were getting access - and exclusive rights for a certain period of time - to the resources of an organization governed by public law.
"While the taxpayer will still be paying the predominant portion of the costs of relevant projects, the exclusive right to the display of the ready product and the potential benefit and revenue entailed, will belong only to the minority shareholder, so to speak, for a certain period of time. This may raise questions about the objectiveness and expediency of the use of public resources," Kanal 2 went on.
As noted, co-productions, including those involving public broadcasters, are not unknown elsewhere. A recent example is ''Take The Night Manager'', a spy thriller starring Tom Hiddlestone. UK public broadcaster the BBC reportedly joined forces with US commercial broadcaster AMC, in order to facilitate the funding required.
Kanal 2 is owned by Postimees Grupp (formerly Eesti Media), which owns, amongst other outlets, daily Postimees.
Popular Kanal 2 serials include ''Pilvede all'' (''Beneath the clouds''), which has been running since 2010.
Editor: Andrew Whyte