Estonia to merge TV and radio

  • 1999-08-19
  • Kairi Kurm
TALLINN - In an attempt to solve the budget problem, the Ministry of Finance proposed to cut the budget of Estonian TV and Estonian Radio by half by merging the two companies.

This would save the government 86 million kroons ($5.9 million) in next year's state budget, which has been cut by nearly 1 billion kroons after the GDP estimates for the next year were revised down.

"We came out with a maximum cost cutting alternative," said Daniel Vaarik, adviser at the Finance Ministry. "The Ministry of Culture is to decide which programs are necessary and which are not. None of the important programs will be liquidated, and the quality must not suffer."

"We do not know at this point, how to restructure these two companies and make them work more efficiently. We cannot tell how much it will cost," Vaarik said.

The representatives of both ETV and ER have expressed negative feelings towards the proposal of the Ministry of Finance.

Ain Saarna, deputy director general at the ER, said that this kind of unification is unreasonable. "We do not have a joint production base, so it is not possible to cut costs in the first stage," said Saarna.

"Dismissing 5 to 10 people will not generate any profit either. ETV and Radio work in different buildings and in different technical circumstances."

"If ETV and ER were to have a joint budget, ETV would use most of it or keep the same cost level and ER would have to cut many times over," said Saarna.

Both ETV and ER have managed to work within the limited budgets planned at the beginning of the year.

Anneli Viita, head of finance at ETV, said that all ETV resources are used with maximum efficiency, and if the new system is to stay the same, the savings will be of insignificant importance.

According to the press, ETV and ER are planning to dismiss hundreds of people this autumn. At present they employ a total of 800 people.

Saarna said that ER has decreased the number of employees by 300 during the last five years and has currently about 300 employees, 100 of whom are related to program production.

ETV and ER had an equal number of employees or 800 people each when the two separated in 1991, but ETV has not dismissed as many employees as ER has.

"The Estonian society will lose nothing if ER is quiet one day," said Rein Lang, head of a competing radio chain, to the daily Postimees.

Saarna said it was important to have a radio station, which was free from political and economic pressures. "If Estonia wants to join the European Union, it has to have a public broadcasting corporation. If we want to be part of the Eastern bloc, we do not need it."

Aripaev, the Estonian business daily has suggested the government should privatize ETV and ER and buy media time, if necessary, from private stations. "This sum will definitely be smaller, than the 97.5 million kroons set apart for ETV and 82 million kroons for ER. The government will keep up one structure, which is responsible for the use of money, instead of two colossi," wrote Aripaev.