If we wish to keep track of Greece’s media corrupt relationships and especially those between media owners and the state’s political power, we’d need to write a book. Add their historical background on top of this and we have managed to fill a whole bookcase. Although it’s not considered to be solely a Greek phenomenon, what is most interesting is that the media-politics relationship within Greek borders, boasts a unique past, present (and future) as well as drama.
We won’t engage with historical flashbacks, although they could fully explain the media’s role in the current political landscape. Instead we may use a “map” designed by Nikos Smyrnaios last April. This is his third chart in a row (1,2) that illustrates the relationship between dominant media and the business elite, the transformations imposed on media-ownership and the emerging dynamics among publishers and businessmen in the last years.
The conclusions drawn from the chart on how media landscape has been shaped since 2008 are the following:
- · The vast majority of Press outlets are controlled by 3 industries: shipping, banking, construction.
- · Ship owners expand their business activities online whilst their presence in media remains stable if not increased. Thus the economic crisis had little or no effect on this business category.
- · Four of the major media owners (Giannikos, Kouris, Kyriakides, Lavrentiades) are awaiting trial for fraud or debts whilst one of them (Kyriakides) has fled abroad. As N.Smyrnaios points out “current times appear tough even for multitalented businessmen”.
- · Following hundreds of layoffs and closures, a shrinking media industry becomes apparent. In most cases it was the less experienced publishers and those who capitalized on the media bubble of the last 10 years, who were forced to close. Some of them ex Lavrentiades saw their publishing activity from the zenith falling to its nadir when illegal activities were revealed, facing felony charges. However online focused subsidiaries run by the “big names” in journalism, flourish with the support of publishers and mainstream media owners.
Although the economic crisis sparked rapid developments across the board, the big players in private media remain the same despite liquidity problems, decline in advertising and gloomy financial reports that raise viability concerns. Those were the first to embrace practices that were later applied within an institutional context: salary cuts, massive layoffs, flexible working hours etc.
Straight after the banks recapitalization and PSI negotiations, TELETYPOS (Mega Channel) was among the first corporations to be granted a loan worth of tens of millions. Thus businessmen and publishers such as S.Psycharis, P.Bobolas, G.Alafouzos, M.Kyriakou and Vardinogianni family achieve to stay afloat and consequently DOL group, SKAI/Kathimerini, Ethnos, Mega Channel & ANT1. “The dominant players generate wealth and gain power from business activities which are either associated with public money (such as Bobolas construction services) or monopolistic activities (such as Vardinogiannis mineral oil corp), or because they receive favorable treatment from the state (Alafouzos, Kyriakou)”.
Before making further reference to certain business circles and publishing houses, it would be useful to go through quickly on how the Greece’s cable market has been shaped since 1989 when the Greek Parliament gave the green light to private broadcasting. It will shed some light on how the political establishment perceives and manages private media operations.
Typically the first licenses for private nationwide TV broadcasting were granted by minister Sotiris Kouvelas. Another 2 followed under PASOK government later on. There was no prior market research or an effort to track down the exact number, size and operation process of the broadcasters on air, even those emitting nationwide. A number of TV channels sprung up like mushrooms as they seized the opportunity from the legislation’s loopholes and the lack of proper licensing process.
Since then, the private TV & radio broadcasters have been granted an extension of “legal operation” although the Supreme Court ruled it as illegal, against “institutional tolerance” and the constitution. This decision has typically outlawed the private broadcasters’ operational framework. The governments though have not taken any legislative initiative within the last years, on the pretext of a fee paid by the broadcasters.
In the same manner the National Broadcasting Council’s -the government’s (supposedly) independent institution- has no legal operating foundation either. Although its elected members cannot serve for more than 2 terms (of 4 years each) some of them served for more than 11 years through illegal procedures. However with the new law passed in 2013 (4151/13) the mandate of Independent authorities can be extended until July.
(to be continued)
(to be continued)
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