The Greek government seems to be getting ahead of the media censorship curve.
The Alexis Tsipras radical left Syriza government has taken a very controversial step in cementing media censorship by issuing TV licenses to only four entities.
The winners of the TV licenses paid a total of €246 million, which we are sure will make absolutely no dent in Greece’s mountainous €350 billion debt load.
Tsipras said the move to regulate the TV sector was about stamping out corruption and mismanagement, but the media says it will curb free speech and shut down stations, putting thousands of people out of work. With an unemployment rate that is near 27%, the last thing Greece needs is more people looking for a job.
You know the world has been turned upside down when a far left socialist government (which states it is for free speech, human rights and open borders) begins closing down TV stations under the guise of mismanagement.
Syriza’s move to authoritarian rule was brash and direct, by only offering four licenses to the highest
bribe bidder…meaning some of the eight channels now broadcasting nationwide will now close down.
The bidding process lasted 66 hours.
Skai TV won the first license (bid 43.6 million euros), but it was far from a celebration. Costas Kimbouropoulos, Skai’s representative, said…
“We were not contesting a license, we came to negotiate ransom.”
Vladimiros Kalogritsas won the second license with a bid of 52.6 million euros. ANT1 secured the third license with a 75.6 million euro bid. Marinakis (Alter Ego TV) won the fourth license with a 73.9 million euro bid.
When everything is cleared, the bid offers will have to be paid in installments in a period of two years. First installment of some 30% will have to be paid within 15 days, the second after one year and the third in the second year.
However, the bid is not over yet, at least not legally, because Greece’s highest court, the Council of State, will have to dig in the issue of whether the procedure was conform with the Constitution as some bidders appealed the procedure.
The next bid to be held will be for TV licenses for regional broadcasters.
ALPHA TV (Kontominas) and STAR TV (Vardinogiannis) are left without a license and will have to stop broadcasting via Digea* in 90 days. Once powerful MEGA TV was left out of the tender for the very beginning due to its financial situation.
While there are scenarios that losers might merge with winners or lease TV program to them, certain is that hundreds if not thousands of journalists, technicians and administrative personnel will lose their jobs.
Without a license is left also Ivan Savvidis; the Russian-born Greek businessman said that the bid money should be given to… “poor Greeks from Pontos.”
I will have to disappoint Savvidis and the poor Pontus-Greeks as the money will most probably will go to Greece’s creditors.
*Digea is the digital network operator that provides a digital terrestrial television transmission network in Greece for the seven (before the bid) nationwide private TV channels.
Ekathimerini reports that the TV media censorship move by Tsipras is far from over.
While the Greek government makes moves to convince Brussels, and its Troika lenders, that it will do whatever it takes to secure more borrowed money to keep the state on never ending life support, this latest move may be the straw that breaks the Syriza camel’s back.
The government, which came to power promising to take on “the oligarchs,” has said the move will help bring order to a sector mired in debt and discredited because of its political links.
Broadcasters, who have mounted a legal challenge to the process, say the auction was little more than an attempt to gag critics, but they still took part in the process.
Antenna TV and two new entrants also won a license. The bidders were on lockdown at the Press Ministry for more than three days, mobiles phones were banned to ensure no leaks.
Skai had called the auction “a bad reality show” aimed at distracting the public from economic hardship.
Existing operators who failed to secure a license, among them Star channel and Alpha TV, will have 90 days before going off air, the government said. Mega TV, the first private station which aired in Greece in 1989, did not qualify to participate in the licensing round because of outstanding debts.
The government has called the country’s media “vampires” living on borrowed funds that they cannot repay.
In a country where up to a fourth of its national output has been wiped out, media, along with a business and a political elite are frequently cited by ruling politicians as being part of an establishment responsible for Greece’s current woes.
State Minister Nikos Pappas, who oversaw the auction and is one of Tsipras’ closest aides said on Friday that Greece now has “TV channels which will inform Greek people objectively…not depending on their owners’ links to the political leadership.”
Opposition parties have accused the government of launching the auction to bring in new business players, more friendly to a party that swept to power for the first time last year and may have less influence over the state mechanism and private sector.
“This auction is a parody,” said Anna-Michele Asimakopoulou, a lawmaker with the conservative New Democracy party on Tuesday. “The government wants to control information…and secondly it wants to create a system of corruption that can be controlled.”