Hungarian Government statement

As part of a supervisory procedure, Estonia’s government agency entrusted with media supervisory functions (TJA) may seize all recordings of a programming content made by a given broadcaster.47

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: Data disclosure

The Ministry of Culture, as the state authority overseeing the Media Services Act,48 can require media service providers49 to provide information and documents, including recordings of programmes.50 This is part of the Minister’s regular monitoring activities in order to ensure that media service providers are meeting the statutory requirements of their license agreements. But the Minister may not “seize” these materials, as the above statement suggests, nor can the Minister use this power as a mechanism of controlling editorial content.51 The Minister’s powers to assess content are limited to checking whether the license holder is upholding the terms of its contract in terms of programming quotas (such as the division of talk/music, original programme/other, programme in Russian or other minority languages, and reporting on local issues). This is a normal regulatory practice in Nordic countries that is geared toward ensuring compliance with the minimum-standard programming benchmarks. Moreover, if the media service provider does not wish to give this information to the authority, the recordings or documents cannot be “seized” or taken by force. Hence, this statement appears to offer a skewed interpretation of the Minister’s power to request data.

Data-disclosure rules are detailed in the new Media Services Act, passed in December 2010 to transpose the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which established a new regulatory framework for “media services” in Estonia—defined as linear and non-linear TV and radio. These media are bound by a number of typical programming quotas regarding the proportion content reserved for news and European works, as well as rules on advertising, product placement, teleshopping, etc. Beyond these basic requirements, there are very few content-based regulations in the Media Services Act. The Ministry of Culture has the right to inspect conformity of the programme services for compliance with these rules, as well as for compliance with the activity license of the media service provider.

According to Section 55 of the Media Services Act, the Ministry of Culture has the authority to obtain information from a media service provider necessary for executing state supervision, including documents, and recordings of the programme service and programmes. Section 21 requires TV and radio service providers to hold recordings of its transmitted programmes for at least 20 days—and the court could impose a longer period in pending court cases.

There have been 12 cases in the past several years in which the Ministry has requested programming recordings from a media service provider. All the cases date back to 2007 to 2009, hence the Ministry was acting under similar rules provided by previous media law, the Broadcasting Act (Ringhäälinguseadus), which under Section 42 granted the Ministry the right to obtain recordings of programmes from broadcasters, if necessary, and Section 12, which required broadcasters to preserve recordings for at least 20 days. Under this act, the Ministry requested recordings as part of its regular monitoring activities to ensure broadcasters were upholding the terms of their licenses. Although the law allows the Minister to suspend licenses for non-compliance, there have been no cases in which this has occurred. In accordance with the previous and current legislation, minor sanctions have been used, such as notifications, warnings, and the in case of TV service providers, a penalty sum.52 It should be noted that 12 monitoring checks leading to action by the Ministry is a large number for a small country like Estonia, which indicates that authorities are fairly diligent in requiring the license holders to follow EU regulations and uphold their licensing agreements.

47 See “Criticism 20,” in “Criticisms and answers formulated on the subject of the proposed media act examined in a Europea context,” Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, December 20, 2010, available at: 48 Media Services Act, available at: 49 In § 5 of Media Services Act, media service provider is defined as: “a legal or natural person who provides television, on-demand audiovisual media or radio service, has editorial responsibility for the choice of the content of the media service and determines the order of its presentation and the manner in which it is organised.” Available at: 50 According to § 54-55 in the Media Services Act, the Ministry of Culture has the authority to obtain information from a media service provider that is necessary for executing state supervision, including documents and recordings of the programme services. Available at: 51 This information was provided and verified by the Media and Copyright Department Advisor, Estonian Ministry of Culture. 52 This information was provided and verified by the Media and Copyright Department Advisor, Estonian Ministry of Culture.