SY.RIZ.A To Fight Media Oligarchs

January 31, 2015 • Media and Politics • by

One of the main priorities of the newly-elected leftist SY.RIZ.A party in Greece is to reform the country’s media landscape. In particular, the SY.RIZ.A-led government plans to organise a public competitive auction, aimed at granting new TV channel frequencies in a ‘transparent’ way.

Several of SY.RIZA’s MPs have placed special emphasis on the term ‘transparency’ to demonstrate that their policies represent a break from the stigmatized past. As Pavlos Eleftheriadis, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Oxford, has argued, “Athens has never allowed (TV) stations to compete fairly for channel frequencies or subjected them to basic regulations.”

Greece’s ‘triangle of power’: media, business and politics

Reuters was the first international news agency to reveal details about the triangle of power behind the Greek crisis: media, business and politics. Critics of this powerful elite, including George Pleios, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Athens, assert that some Greek media companies receive easy loans from banks, which cannot be serviced in the medium-term. These companies also receive advertising from banks and state-owned enterprises.

In exchange for such financial favours, media companies offer friendly and biased coverage that supports the interests of the “triangle of power”, as  SY.RIZ.A MEP Dimitri Papadimoulis recently claimed in an interview with a leading TV outlet, Mega Channel.

SY.RIZ.A plans to challenge the press oligarchs and fight corruption

SY.RIZ.A’s initial media policy goal is to fight the so-called press oligarchs. This policy is in line with its pre-election promises, but SY.RIZ.A also believes it can go further. It plans to increase state revenues, and help finance the national economy, by ending corruption and tax-evasion, both common in Greece’s media sector. In a recent Financial Times article, George Stathakis, the Economy Minister  said: “the state would earn more than a hundred million euros from this process”.

As part of its anti-corruption programme, SY.RIZ.A will seek to control banks’ loan policies in order to prevent, or block, the financial support of heavily indebted media enterprises.

Greek journalists are divided about SY.RIZ.A’s planned reforms

Greek journalists are currently divided about SY.RIZ.A’s planned media reforms. Some believe the government can succeed, but others disagree. Although a reconsideration of Greece’s media modus operandi is certainly essential, the road will be long and difficult. Even if SY.RIZ.A has the political will to proceed – as opposed to previous governments – its developing economic policies entail a higher risk for the country.

Greek media companies are struggling to survive in a difficult economic environment

Greek media companies – including newspapers and online networks – are struggling to survive in the restricted and competitive market. As long as Greece fails to respect its international obligations and agree with its creditors there is a risk the situation could deteriorate further. Private companies – mainly from the telecommunications and industrial sectors – that currently buy media advertising, are reluctant to continue to do so under current economic circumstances.

The lack of advertising from the private sector could mean that SY.RIZ.A becomes  trapped in a labyrinth. Its promising media reform agenda may need to be postponed while even the most sustainable media enterprises are forced to to access liquidity to cover their costs.

pic credit: Flikr creative commons: Adolfo Lujan Diso Press

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