ERR news chief: No issue with Estonian media content, but funding a worry

ERR Head of News and Sport Anvar Samost being interviewed by journalist Vilja Kiisler on Otse uudistemajast Wednesday morning.
ERR Head of News and Sport Anvar Samost being interviewed by journalist Vilja Kiisler on Otse uudistemajast Wednesday morning. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

While Estonian media content is in good order, funding remains an issue, said ERR's head of News and Sport Anvar Samost on Wednesday.

Appearing on ERR broadcast Otse uudistemajast Wednesday morning, in something of a role reversal as a guest this time, Samost told interviewer Vilja Kiisler of Delfi news portal that in comparison with the private sector, the state budget component of the public broadcaster makes things more simple, adding that ERR's funding model should nonetheless be more independent.

"Our funding set-up could be made more independent so that even politicians' apparent influence over budgets would be more indirect, and longer-term," Samost said, pointing out the example of Lithuania, where national broadcasting funding is linked to economic growth and tax revenues.

In the private sector, while advertising revenues did not increase significantly between 2007 and 2018, remaining around €100 million per year, all other media costs have risen, which is causing pressures.

Over the long-term, it is unsustainable for wealthy owners to turn the press into a sort of mission statement, Samost thought.

Postimees Grupp, formerly Eesti Meedia, is owned by businessman Margus Linnamäe, whose other interests include a major pharmacy chain as well as the Apollo entertainment group.

Samost also noted the ERR newsroom's view that not every politician's speech needs to be covered by national broadcasters.

"We follow all the most common news values criteria. For a few years now, we have proceeded on the basis that an ERR news consumer should have a noise-free view of what's going on in the world," he said, noting that it is important to meet the high expectations and keep people informed about important things without giving them a headache and adding that this is what an editor gets paid for.

Samost also said he had noticed a similar trend in the output of daily Õhtuleht.

The Estonian private sector media landscape is dominated by two conglomerates, Postimees Grupp and Ekspress Meedia, who in addition to daily and weekly newspapers run several TV channels and radio stations and online portals. Õhtuleht and business daily Äripäev are also significant media publications.

ERR runs three TV channels and several radio channels, as well as web news in Estonian, Russian and English. It has a supervisory board consisting of one representative from each of the (currently five) political parties represented at the Riigikogu, plus three independent experts.

The original Otse uudistemajast broadcast (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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