TV channel taken off air due to debts

  • 2001-10-11
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - TV1, one of Estonia's three private TV channels, disappeared from screens on the afternoon of Oct. 3 after the channel failed to pay a 1 million kroon ($58,823) debt to the Estonian Broadcasting Transmission Center.

After employees at the channel were sent home early, Rait Killandi, TV1's chairman, said he was sure the station would receive a cash injection from its Polish owners. "Otherwise I would have already started liquidating the company," he said.

Although salaries had not been paid since July, contracts with the company's employees remained in force, he added.

In addition to the 1 million kroons TV1 owes the transmission center, its other debts total about 10 million kroons.

Rein Ruudi, head of the broadcasting transmission center, said TV1 would not be allowed back on air until the debt had been paid.

Last December TV1 was taken over by the Polish company Polsat, which also owns LNT in Latvia and Baltijos TV in Lithuania.

According to the Emor research company, TV1 has been the least popular TV channel in Estonia since March 2001, with about an 8 percent of audience share. It trails the state-owned ETV, which has 19 percent, and TV3 and Kanal 2, which have 16 percent and 14 percent respectively. About 11 percent of TV viewers watch the Russian state-owned channel ORT.

After September's terrorist attacks in the United States, audiences for TV1's news programs grew by just 50 percent, compared with 200 percent for Kanal 2 and TV 3.

TV1 is available in 87 percent of Estonia's territory.