In 1998, the majority shares of the two largest corporations of printed media were bought by Scandinavian-based international corporations. Likewise, the major private TV channels are in foreign ownership. In order to prevent media concentration, the Broadcasting Act obliges the Ministry of Culture not to grant broadcasting permission to an enterprise or group of enterprises that could result in the emergence of a monopoly in a certain region, or if the same enterprise is also a publisher of printed daily or weekly newspapers.
The political role and (perhaps lacking) objectivity of the media have recurred as discussion themes during the past few years. The major dailies are all politically independent, but it has been argued that the inexperience and youth of many journalists have caused them to accept, uncritically, the tendencies prevailing in Estonian politics.
Broadcasting legislation guarantees the independence of broadcasters from the state and prescribes political balance. It also specifies quotas for the share of domestic and European programming, and for the share of programmes produced by the broadcaster itself (see also chapter 4.2.6). Estonian Television (ETV), which is the biggest producer of original programmes in the Estonian and Russian languages, has largely succeeded in fulfilling its role as a public broadcaster.
The possibility of launching a separate National TV-channel showing programmes and news in Russian has every now and then become the topic of an intensive public debate, usually triggered by political crises such as the “Bronze Soldier” crisis in 2007 and again, the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. In November 2008, a sister channel to the National TV-channel was opened under the name ETV2, which combines broadcasts in Estonian and Russian (incl. 2.5 h Russian-language programmes a day).
Several private Radio channels in Russian are also regularly aired in Estonia, such as Radio 4, Radio100FM, DinamiteFM, and EuroFM. However, due to geographical proximity and the reach of new media, it can be estimated that channels aired from Russia are popular among the Russian speaking communities in Estonia too (see also chapter 2.7).
There are several regular cultural programmes aired on the National TV channel and radio which have increased their variety of programmes recently – for instance the weekly Op!, the Russian speaking Batareja and the daily Cultural news.