In October, There was once again widespread coverage in the newspapers on the topic of the Kremlin’s TV channels. The changes in viewership were noted and the amounts of monies paid to these channels in Russia by Estonian TV viewers were calculated.
The Propaganda channels topic has been greatly reported by the Estonian media in the late fall of the past couple of years, for example, last December 2017, driven by Raul Rebase’s article and prior to that in November 2016 by the British inquiry. The problem is acknowledged but solutions have not appeared. This problem is probably due to the ambiguity of who and at what national level it should be addressed. Should it be the Cultural Ministry, the Technical Surveillance Authority or rather a third agency?
There seems to not be any idea of what exactly to do. The discussion is confined to discussing channel closures and disconnections. In the most current case, several experts considered it necessary to emphasize that closing is not a good idea without offering alternatives.
Propastop finds that there are many more solutions rather than „lets close them down“ or „ let’s not do anything“. The implementation of any of these measures below would help to reduce the impact of Kremlin propaganda channels in Estonia.
1 Taking propaganda channels off basic bundles
Currently we find Kremlin TV channels on Telia, Elisa and STV basic packages, there is no extra cost involved to watch them. If you move these propaganda channels into pay-per-view packages, we could reduce their view ability. Russian language channels that do not transmit hostile propaganda could remain in the free viewing sector. This measure is easily implemented because it does not rely on the state’s initiative. The changes could be carried out by the service providers of television on their own initiatives, in response to public interests.
However, if the companies feel a lack of motivation, consumers can pressure them. International companies are sensitive to boycotting campaigns, for example in the case of Walmart and Adidas, consumer pressure caused them to remove goods with Soviet insignias from their list of sales items. Propastop is confident that the launch of a similar campaign in Estonia would lead to the elimination of Kremlin channels from basic packages.
2 Viewers’ awareness of the propaganda nature of these channels
Currently the propaganda channels of the Kremlin are not marked that they are hostile to Estonia. This marking would help the viewers better understand the nature of the channel and see the impact of it. Explanatory information could be displayed by adding subtitles to the program or display a permanent tag, an idea we have previously advocated. It is also possible to carry out various communication campaigns on other channels, for example to make explanations on television programs or to send direct mail to the viewers of the propaganda channels. A prerequisite for the solution would be state initiatives that would force propaganda channels to be accounted as foreign agents. Media regulations were developed that way in the USA for example.
3 Restrict the view ability of individual programs
Some media experts point out that info attacks appear only on a small part of the channels’ programs (news, talk shows), the rest are serials, films as well as entertainment with no direct propaganda subtext. Technically, it is possible to stop the transmission of propaganda programs by replacing them with a dark screen or a neutral news program produced in Estonia, while maintaining free access to the rest of the content.
4 The transmissions of channels can be temporarily stopped
If the final closure of propaganda channels sounds too harsh and we are afraid of accusations of limiting freedom of speech by taking such a step, we could apply methods that are more lenient by temporarily removing them from transmitting. The limitation, for example could be implemented for a couple of months and its reinstatement would depend on the lack of propaganda attack material in their program material. In Lithuania, temporary restrictions have been implemented, the accompanying experience can be analyzed in Estonia and related problems could be avoided.
5 The closing of a hostile channel is not a special act of courage
The prohibition of Kremlin channels is not something extraordinary anymore; this has been done to the Kremlin by the Ukraine during their war with Russia. Moldovia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and Latvia as well as India have also done it. Russia’s propaganda television has been closed by the USA, and the United Kingdom has threatened to do the same. Therefore, if Estonia were to do the same they would find support and understanding from its main allies. By the way, propaganda channels have been previously „closed“ in Estonia – after the Bronze soldier night, their transmissions were halted by the Tallinn and Tartu jails. It is not known whether the ban still exists to this day.
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Photo Jeremy Cherfas /Flickr /CC