Estonia: then there were two

A series of acquisitions in recent years has seen the Estonian media landscape divided up between two major media groups: Eesti Media and Ekspress Media. Both companies are increasingly banking on non-journalistic lines of business. And also when it comes to radio and television stations, it is not always journalists doing the reporting.

The website of the daily Postimees.
The website of the daily Postimees.
Both major publishing groups, but especially Eesti Meedia with the flagship Postimees, are moving towards having a single multimedia editorial team for their entire group. Increasingly, content is used cost-effectively across several of the group’s channels - from daily newspapers and online media to local newspapers, radio stations and television. Indeed Eesti Media, now the largest media group in the Baltic region, also owns Estonia’s most popular TV channel Kanal 2, several popular radio stations as well as a large number of magazines, the news agency BNS, a book publisher and mail order companies.

And both groups are increasingly focussing on non-journalistic lines of businesses, from online sales to event marketing and printing. It is also noticeable that since 2017, neither of the companies has had journalists on its boards of directors.

But it is not just the two dominant players that are increasingly blurring the line between journalism and "content marketing". Private TV channels "sell" news stories, and newspapers hire journalists whose tasks include advertising content. Radio programmes are sponsored by organisations and corporations. For the consumer, distinguishing between bought advertising and journalistic content is often impossible.

Estonian advertising market revenues in 2017 broke the 100 million euro mark for the first time. Significantly, however, traditional advertising channels are increasingly losing out to Google and Facebook.

For the first time, the chairman of public broadcaster ERR has an exclusively private-sector background: Erik Roose came from the Eesti Meedia group and was a former CEO of Postimees. It remains to be seen how this will affect content. Since 2017, private television channels are no longer included in the free terrestrial television programme and the two main channels - Kanal 2 and TV3 - have each lost around three percent of their viewers. Both are attempting to reach a younger audience.

Blogs and social networks are playing an increasingly important role. Many postings by politicians or other public figures are also taken from social media and added to websites, where they generate media attention. Influential blogs like often have just as much reach as the websites of traditional media.

Freedom of the press has been guaranteed by the constitution since the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991.

Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders):
Rank 12 (2018)

Last updated: May 2018
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