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Summertime, and the livin' is easy: public broadcasting unplugged

PHOTO: Elmo Riig / Sakala

The summer at hand is about to overheat politically – for Estonia and whole world alike. Despite the fact, Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) has pulled the plug is seems: gone are lots of talk shows and political commentary, while Vikerraadio fills the air with love chat.

Estonian TV, turning a dignified 60 this year, has shed its traditional «Terevisioon», and the «Ringvaade» which used to sum up the weekly news. All this while Europe is aching about Greece and immigrants, Estonia is bursting with domestic policy issues, and NATO activity vs Russia keeps us on edge of seat.

The taxpayer paid ERR, tasked with broadest possible coverage of Estonian and global events, is warming up «oldies». While still doing its mid-day «Uudis+» news, Vikerraadio is all about music and archived stuff replayed.

Programmes cost money

ERR chief executive Margus Allikmaa admitted they have discussed the issue with programmes desk. He explained they would «surely do something if anything really vital» pops up and claimed that «all is in readiness».

Obviously, TV and radio folks have vacations too. As explained by Mr Allikmaa, the teams for programmes are «without any replacements» and with one gone others cannot do the job. Therefore, it makes sense to rest together.

«And, as always, if we had more money we could do programmes all the summer through, but now it just won’t work. The budget is programme based, every programme costs money, and with the programmes taking time out in the summer we save some for the fall,» explained Mr Allikmaa.

«But again: should a need arise to cover a subject fast the people will surely show up, but as things stand our analysis has not shown this to be the case,» he added while pointing to the radio programmes that do the job, basically, and underlying that the issue is not laziness but the budget – and that what matters most with news is the message not picture.

Replacements lacking

Mr Allikmaa acknowledged he has been worried by it all himself and has had a longer summer season in mind when applying for funds. Even so, the money has thus far failed to come for programmes to go all year round. That would require double teams.

According to ERR chairman Agu Uudelepp, it’s not for the council to deal with programmes and content. «I am convinced, though, that if need arises the team which stands responsible for the content can react swiftly,» he said.