In Estonia in recent months, discussions in the Kremlin propaganda outlets such as Sputnik, Baltnews and PBK have voiced the opinion that PBK or Pervõi Baltiiski Kanal is a television channel that does not need to be paid much attention to. For example, Rein Lang stresses PBK’s outdated and unattractive content, Anvar Samost mentions the declining audience of the channel, Ainar Ruussar writes about viewers of such TV stations as a dying group. Latvian journalist, Inga Springe even says in an ETV video: „I should be very careful to say, that PBK broadcasts propaganda.“
Taken together, these views may give the impression that PBK is a safe insignificant channel for Kremlin influence activities. Propastop wants change this misconception. We highlight those broadcasts on PBK that broadcast more or less directly Kremlin propaganda.
Russian produced news programs „Novosti“ (News) and „Vremja“ (Time) are broadcast on PBK throughout the day. These programs are structured directly from the point of view of the ruling regime in the Kremlin and regularly include harmful information directed towards Estonia.
An example of such content is a news episode aired in December 2019 that attempted to diminish the Soviet Union’s role as an initiator of World War II, or the story of the suspension of Sputnik’s activities as a restriction on freedom of speech.
“Vremja pokažet” (Time will show) is a talk show that, under the direction of its presenter Artjom Sheinin, directly presents the Kremlin’s perspective on world affairs. Occasionally the topic on the show is Estonia; we did an in-depth analysis of one of these cases a couple of years ago. The propaganda salute of Tallinn’s „liberation“ is a recent episode that fits in with this program. “Vremja pokažet” was last aired on PBK last year and is not currently shown on this channel.
Also worth mentioning is “Dobroje utro!” (Good morning), a morning talk show that is non-political in content but also occasionally includes Kremlin propaganda in its mix.
TV series, feature films, documentaries
The third group of programs produced in Russia do not contain direct active propaganda, but more broadly use soft power messages. They emphasize the Kremlin’s perspective on history, humanizing and glorifying the work of Soviet power structures such as the NKVD or the KGB and heroizing the Red Army.
Examples include the TV spy series “Spjaštšije” (Sleepers) which aired in 2017 and 2018, as well as the recently run series “Komissarša” (Female Commissar). An example of soft power of our eastern neighbour is the feature film “Sojuz spasenija” (Rescue Alliance) aired on PBK, which emphasizes the Kremlin regime’s idea that every social protest and power change is bad.
In addition to specific programs, it is also worthwhile noting the vague content of PBK, which includes programs that do not involve direct Kremlin influence activities – the channels own productions commissioned by the City of Tallinn or by Estonian politicians. For example the 40 minute program “Novosti Estonii” (Estonian news), which includes Yana Toom’s „Brussels Diaries“ shown 65 minutes after the news show „Vremja“. The programs produced in Russia are not distinguished from other content and their bias may not be unequivocally clear to the Estonian viewer.
An overview shows that while there are Russian TV channels with much more vocal propaganda content, this fact does not justify reducing the role of the PBK as a tool for Kremlin influence activities.
Pictures: Screenshots of PBK’s “Vremja” and “Vremja pokažet”.