Thessaloniki’s ‘Lord of the Mountain’

A complaint from from a Thessaloniki woman, feeling that she had been duped by the game show when she received a huge telephone bill after having waited on hold for two hours, is only the tip of the iceberg. In the past, there have been a number of charges brought against game shows, auction programs, telemarketing shows and a number of other programs promising money, gifts and special offers, but the phenomena are in no way on the wane. On the contrary, it appears that behind the clean-cut image and the promise of easy wealth is a well-organized and profitable business that exploits the naivety of viewers, encouraging them to try their luck with a simple telephone call. These daily game shows are usually broadcast on «fringe» channels, mostly owned by two people. One of these (a former video and electrical appliance technician, known as «Lord of the Mountain» because of the large number of transmitters he has set up at Hortiati) indeed has the lion’s share of the market. He also appears as the producer of the game shows that are now broadcast nationwide. He does this by buying hours on provincial channels which have satellite links to a Thessaloniki studio. However, this dubious practice is a legitimate agreement with major telephone operators from which he «buys» the 9011 numbers. All one needs to do to participate in the game shows on the Thessaloniki frequencies is pick up the phone. Irrespective of whether participants eventually go on the air, they win gifts ranging from pens and diaries to vacuum cleaners, video cameras and suitcases. Of course, the goal is the major prize – the sum of a few thousand euros, which keeps increasing each time a player loses.