In the early hours of Friday 2 September, the results of the bidding process granting broadcast licenses to four private television channels were announced. Bidding took over 65 hours to be completed, and bidders were not allowed to leave the building of the Secretariat General for Information and Communication until bidding for all four licenses had been completed.
Since the creation of private channels in 1989, media owners had not paid for broadcast licenses, which, legally, must be granted through a public competition process, providing access to public broadcast frequencies. In a nexus of corruption, private media were allowed to broadcast without paying for the requisite licenses, in exchange for favorable reporting for government policies. Moreover, some media owners are also the owners of large construction companies, which took on large contracts for public infrastructure.
The four new media owners who have secured a license are as follows:
Mr Ioannis Alafouzos, owner of SKAI TV – secured a license for the fee of €43.6m
Mr Ioannis Kalogritsas, who will set up a brand new TV channel, with a license amounting to €52.6m
Mr Thodoris Kyriakou, owner of the ANT1 TV station, with a license amounting to €75.9m
Mr Vangelis Marinakis, who will set up a new media station for a license fee amounting to €73.9m
The total public revenue from the bidding process is an unprecedented €246m, a sum that even Minister of State, Nikos Pappas (who made it his mission to carry out the competition), did not expect to be so high.
Politically, the competition is a victory for the government,as the opposition, and New Democracy in the main, appeared to side with the oligarchs and their status of impunity. It is also a victory in that TV channels, despite their very serious objections, were forced to participate and to accept the process. This victory offers no guarantee, however, in matter of substance: the quality of reporting, media pluralism, whether or not new networks of corruption will e created, and, last but not least, labor relations in TV channels.
Public reaction has so far been mixed. While the high sum paid to the public purse is generally seen favorably, this is not the case regarding the media owners who have secured a license. In contrast to the government narrative, promising to “end corruption” in the media sector, commentators point out that, by looking at the names of the people who filed an application for a broadcast license, as well as the names of those who did successfully bid for one, it’s plain to see that media content will amount to more of the same, i.e. biased reporting, representing the interests of the channel owners. Moreover, the high sum which will be paid to the public sector in exchange for broadcast licenses has been contrasted to the sums for which other public property has been sold, most notably the TRAINOSE rail infrastructure network, sold earlier this summer to an Italian rail conglomerate for €45m, a figure considered to be scandalously low by many.
AnalyzeGreece has previously covered developments in the media sector in Greece:
Interview with National Radio and Television Council member, George Pleios
Despina Biri is a researcher and writer on health care issues. She blogs at despinabiri.wordpress.com and bakterienfureureseele.wordpress.com