The real bosses of Greek media remain invisible

Without an experienced guide, it is impossible for the average person to find their way through the maze of offshore companies holding shares in the 15 nationwide television stations on a list released Tuesday by the National Radio and Television Council. Nearly everyone in Greece is familiar with the major TV stations, and nearly everyone knows that the headquarters of this or that channel are in Maroussi, on Mesogeion Avenue or in Bournazi, but very few are in a position to understand what connection Greece’s TV «barons» have to companies with impressive-sounding names, such as EFG Eurofinanciere d’Investissements SAM, or with headquarters in Ireland, Luxembourg, Cyprus or Monaco. We all know that a small number of families control the greater part of the television market, but their names won’t be found on the Council’s list. People may well wonder how much influence they actually have over the local political scene, and what form that influence takes. According to existing legislation, television channels are required once a year to submit a list of the names of their major shareholders, along with the number and percentage of shares they hold. Yet these lists do not always indicate the identity of the individuals involved. Of course, curious people with time on their hands and access to the right sources could probably get a fuller picture of the situation. In many cases, the family tree of television station owners is extremely complicated, with domestic branches intertwined with those of offshore and other more nebulous «plants.» This election campaign is not characterized, as in the past, by «blue» or «green» cafes, but by the implacable effect of television on shaping the electorate’s preferences. So one would expect more transparency in the relationship between cause and effect and a better mapping of the television landscape. The procedure for issuing broadcasting permits, according to Press Minister Christos Protopapas (and similar proclamations by his predecessors), was supposed to have been completed by the end of 2003. However, it has now been swept away by the election campaign, leaving the government wide open to pressure from powerful business interests, preventing it from exerting pressure of its own.

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