The government was creating a modern, healthy and transparent framework for the operation of the media in Greece, while cutting the “umbilical cord” between the state and bankrupt media owners, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said on Sunday, speaking at an event discussing corruption and the media on the island of Naxos, Greece.
The new licensing procedure for television channels will “for the first time introduce order” and make owners pay for the concession of a public good given for their use, Gerovasili noted. According to the spokeswoman, a shortlist of possible participants in the tender will be announced in July, followed by the final list of participants in August. She said that the procedure will adhere to the strictest standards of transparency, monitored by an international firm of chartered accountants selected by open tender. She also predicted that the changes will put an end to the “media sweat shops” denounced by many journalists in the sector, introducing laws that protected labour.
Referring to the new regulatory framework for internet news services, which Minister of State Nikos Pappas will unveil on Monday, Gerovasili said this would impose order on an “anarchic landscape that breeds corruption”. She pointed out that a ring of blackmailers recently exposed had operated via such news websites and suggested that the blackmailers’ links to main opposition New Democracy had not yet been satisfactorily explained.
“Our predecessors allowed another wound in the area of news and information to fester. I am talking about businesses with an unknown ownership status and “third-class” employees, without rights and on starvation wages. We are closing this wound,” she said.
The government’s measures will also seek to ensure transparency in media funding, especially from state-sector and bank advertising spending, Gerovasili said. She noted that this was the limit of the government’s permitted role and that issues pertaining to publication, code of conduct and the standards of news coverage, were the responsibility of journalists themselves, with the public as final judge.
According to Gerovasili, the current state of Greece’s ailing journalism sector was reflected in the Journalists Without Borders report, where the country tumbled 64 places in the world rankings since 2009 to reach an all-time low of 99th in 2014. This was the largest drop in the world, she added, noting that it occurred in a democratic country, where journalists were not persecuted for their beliefs or jailed, nor targeted with violence, and she linked the phenomenon to the harsh austerity programme imposed on Greece.
“The implementation of the memorandum revealed something that, of course, we already knew. The relationship of dependence between the media and the state, public money and the banks,” she said. “As soon as the state funding dried up, the pre-existing crisis took on explosive dimensions and for the next years, the large media firms continued to exist only due to bank lending.” In what she described as a further scandal, Gerovasili pointed out that lending to some media companies had not dropped in the crisis years, even when it had completely dried up for other sectors of the economy.