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ERR DG discusses the coronavirus crisis for EBU
 05 Nov 2020
In the first of a series of interviews with leaders of EBU member organizations, EBU talked to Erik Roose, Director General of Estonia’s ERR, on the challenges and key learnings of the last months. Here are the key take-outs from the interview available in full at ebu.ch.

“Day-to-day work became really complicated when Covid first broke out and called for some fundamental procedural changes. I quickly decided to empower team and department leaders and, in parallel, set up new collaborative solutions to share information, including weekly Zoom management meetings.
We also made changes at Board level, moving from weekly to daily morning meetings that I extended to a broader team to cover key topics, from work arrangements to program cancellations and health and safety issues. In this way we reached out to all branches and were actually even more aware of what different departments were doing and planning than before.”

“In addition, from the third week of March, I started to write personally to all 700 ERR staff every week. I have been absolutely open on the problems faced, how we have addressed them and adjusted and what we expect. It was very personal and basically the first time ever that everyone was in touch with management and leadership on a weekly basis.”

“A key learning is to avoid micromanagement and provide a kind of umbrella logic. You can give quite big rights and powers to managers, but you have to give them a certain framework, goals, and restrictions. For example, we had to have additional news at midday, followed by news and daily broadcasts till the evening. This was a clear goal and the team had to focus on delivering it.
Another key learning is the importance of engaging everyone. For example, maintenance and deep cleaning was a big burden during the crisis, with cleaning staff on three shifts a day. To alleviate this, we asked everyone to clean his or her desks before leaving - a simple request that turned out to be very useful.”

“We managed to launch the Jupiter VOD platform at a time when people had to stay home and wanted new content and new services, so we experienced a rocket launch of Jupiter by pure chance.
Now we have this experience we could apply it quite easily. If it is needed now we know that switching to home working takes two to three days.”

“However, we remain cautions. Last month, local private media in Estonia filed a complaint with the European Commission, claiming we have strengthened our position too much and receive too much funding. It’s a similar situation to YLE in Finland and LRT in Lithuania, so we’re discussing with them and evaluating with legal experts, as well as with the EBU. I absolutely do not agree with these accusations. But it’s a free world. We live in a democracy and everyone can complain.”

“As I speak, in October, I still do not have clarity on ERR’s budget for next year. I can presume it will be relatively on the same level as this year, but I do not have a figure. Technically speaking, I do not have any funding from January 1, at least officially. This must be solved within next few weeks but is the situation now. Economically, there is a very big hit to the private sector, including commercial media who have taken a hit on advertising. This adds to tension in the market and is a big challenge. Politicians are vulnerable in this situation and often don’t know how to react.”

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