Hungarian Government statement

[The] Estonian TJA, operating as a government agency, may submit a proposal to their competent ministers of culture authorised to issue licenses, in which they recommend the suspension or revoking of a given license.73

country experts

Inka Salovaara (PhD) is an associate professor in the Department of Information and Media Studies at Aarhus University, Denmark. From 2004 to 2009 she served as an associate professor in Communication Studies at Tallinn University, Estonia. Her research focuses on new technology in relation to media and democracy in Europe, as well as comparative media system analysis, digital journalism, press freedom and pluralism. She has contributed chapters and articles to a number of collections and journals including the European Journal of Communication, Qualitative Inquiry, The Communication Review, Journalism, and International Journal of Cultural Studies and Journal of Elections. Her most recent books include: Media Geographies. Newspapers and Economic Crisis (2009) and Manufacturing Europe: Spaces of Democracy, Diversity and Communication (2009).

Andra Siibak (PhD) is a research fellow in media studies at the Institute of Journalism and Communication at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Communication, Media and IT, at Södertörn University, Sweden. Her present research interests focus on generations and inter-generational relations in the information society. Her articles have appeared in several peer-reviewed journals, including Young, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Cyberpsychology, Journal of Children and Media, and Journal of Virtual Worlds Research.


Expert assessments: Sanctions

This example is a distortion of the TJA’s role and regulatory powers.74 The role of the Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority (TJA) is technical. Hence, the TJA can suspend or revoke broadcasting licenses only when technical requirements of the broadcaster (such as legitimate use of radio frequencies) or other requirements of license application are not met. It has no content-related regulatory powers and it cannot levy fines. The Ministry of Culture supervises compliance with the Media Services Act, which was introduced in 2010 to implement the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.75 Hence the Ministry of Culture has supervisory and sanctioning powers regarding content in the field of audiovisual broadcasting.

However, it must be noted that there are few content regulations in field of media services in Estonia and the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive has been implemented in the most minimal manner possible. The Ministry of Culture does have power to revoke or suspend a given license in certain cases—for instance if an applicant submits false information about the license activity or fails to transmit the programme service specified in the license. But in the Estonian context, revocation or suspension of licenses is rarely related to journalistic content but rather to specific technical and programming aspects agreed to during the license application process. It should also be noted that neither the Ministry of Culture nor the JTA supervise the print or online press, which are self-regulated by codes of ethics produced by the Estonian Newspaper Association.

Content regulations are covered in Chapter 2 of the Media Services Act, which includes provisions on providing balanced transmission time for political parties during elections, regulations on the protection of minors, the right of reply, access for people with visual and hearing disabilities, and the promotion of European works. 76 Media service providers are also obliged with comply with a number of regulations regarding commercial communications, including provisions on surreptitious commercial communication, codes of conduct for advertising during children’s programmes, and product placement.77

In cases of a violation to the above provisions in the Media Services Act and to other requirements of the service provider’s activity license, the official exercising state supervision may first issue a warning, and in case of failure to comply with the precept, a financial penalty may be applied. The upper limit of the penalty is EUR 1,300. In case a broadcaster repeated fails to comply with a precept, the maximum penalty is EUR 5,000. However in cases of violations to regulations on protection of minors and commercial communications, the Ministry can fine the media service provider or “legal person responsible” up to EUR 32,000.78

If a broadcaster fails to comply with the penalty assessed, their license may be suspended, and unless changes are made to comply with requirements, the revocation of a license will be initiated. The Ministry can revoke a broadcast license if the person named on the license: 1) fails to meet the requirements provided for by the license; 2) has submitted false information about meeting the requirements specified by the license or about meeting the requirements provided for in this Act; or 3) as a result of his or her acts violates the terms or conditions of this Act.79 The Minister of Culture may also suspend the activity license for transmission of the programme service for up to one month if material obstacles become evident in the technical transmission of the programme.80

The revocation or suspension of a license has been put into force several times. In the majority of cases, the revocation of the license has been initiated by the license holder because it was unable to continue broadcasting for economic or technical reasons. In several cases, the holders of the broadcasting licenses have written to the Ministry of Culture to apply for changes to the license agreement.81

As noted, both the print and online press are self-regulated in Estonia. After re-establishing its independence in 1991, lawmakers in the Estonian Parliament attempted to pass a press law but due to active objection from publishers and journalists the draft never became law. Nevertheless, there are several legal provisions, e.g. the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia, Law of Obligations Act, the Broadcasting Act, the Advertising Act, which influence the content and operation of the print media in different ways.

All sanctioning decisions can be appealed in the administrative courts, in which case, the decision may be suspended, under certain circumstances. Decisions of the first-instance court can be further appealed at the county court, and upon additional appeal, at the Supreme Court levels.

73 “Criticism 1,” in “Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a European context,” Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010, available at: 74 See Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority (Tehnilise Järelevalve Amet) website at: 75 Media Services Act, Resolution No 802 of 29 December 2010, proclaimed by the President of the Republic, official text in English available at:; See also: “Estonia: Two New Legal Acts in the Media Field,” IRIS 2011-2:1/22, Database on legal information relavent to the audiovisual sector in Europe. IRIS Merlin, 76 See the following sections in the Media Services Act, §14 on providing balanced transmission time for political parties during elections), §19 on the protection of minors, §20 on the right of reply, §23 on access for people with visual and hearing disabilities, §24 on promotion of European works; official text in English available at: 77 Media Services Act, §§25–31, official text in English available at: 78 Media Services Act, §19 and §§28–31, official text in English available at: 79 Media Services Act, §45, official text in English available at: 80 Media Services Act, §46, official text in English available at: 81 In accordance with the Media Services Act § 39 (1) and § 63 the holders of some broadcasting licenses have written to the Ministry of Culture in order to apply for changes in the license agreement. The changes generally have to do with the changes in the name of the programme. In some cases the holder of the license has also been allowed to make changes in the content of the programme. Official text of the Media Services Act in English available at: