Viewers did not swallow the bait

New Democracy spokesmen spoke of a «public relations barrage.» ND leader Costas Karamanlis issued a reminder of the need for «respect of proper procedures» in his visit to ESR. The Communist Party of Greece demanded the immediate implementation of the principle of equal airtime for party policies. The leader of Synaspismos Left Coalition spoke of a serious «mutation in democracy.» The Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) has made representations to the press minister and other bodies, asking for parity, pluralism and respect for the views of all parties. But for Press Minister Christos Protopapas, the barrage of news flashes is simply «political.» «We should understand that the increased interest, by the mass media during this period, in politics and political activity by parties and leaders of parties, is unrelated to» political campaigning. «They’re simply envious of Mr Papandreou because he has a following,» said a candidate for the ruling party on one channel. But for ESR, which last week issued detailed guidelines on the pre-electoral behavior of electronic media, and for the country’s political forces and the journalists’ union, obviously, there is a problem. Other explanations have also been put forth. One channel impels the next onto the road to ruin, a well-known presenter said. «When one channel makes a start with a news flash, the others follow out of necessity,» driven by the stick of competitiveness. (Any similarity with the behavior of lemmings on a cliff is purely coincidental.) Another presenter was franker. «The two (main) parties sell better…» And all this is happening before election campaign commercials have even started. Should we suppose that the favoritism shown to PASOK has something to do with the income from TV’s best client? However, ESR’s reaction, coupled with the general outcry, forced some channels to moderate their behavior. Representatives of the Left were also invited – on morning shows, not so frequently on evening ones. It seems small parties have their own biorhythms, which do not fit in with the TV broadcast timetables. In the last few days, there has been an appreciable diminution of news flashes. Star has bound itself over to interrupting a program only for serious reasons. Alpha has simply renamed its urgent news bulletins as «Decision Time,» so as not to throw the viewers in a tizzy. The fierce public relations barrage has moved viewers little. The much-vaunted «momentum» has not translated into a monumental increase in viewing figures for news and current affairs programs. It’s natural, due to the pre-electoral period, for interest in political developments to increase. While this rise has taken place, it’s not a spectacular one. According to AGB, from January 7 to 14, the share in overall viewing figures for the central news bulletins of the five major private channels (Antenna, Mega, Alpha, Alter, Star) rose to 35.7 percent over 33.3 percent during the same period last year. At the same time, the through-and-through political program «After the News,» hosted by Pavlos Tzimas (NET), almost doubled its viewing figures. There was also more interest by the viewing public in interviews with political figures (of Costas Karamanlis and Constantine Mitsotakis on Alpha and Michalis Chrysochoidis on Alter’s «Jungle»), in the first ballot poll on «Tete-a-Tete» (Alter), as well as in the «Files» of Alexis Papahelas (Mega). Giorgos Mitsicostas’s caustic satire («Mitsi-hosta» on Alter) met with a particularly good response, the last two programs running into double figures, percentage-wise, given that they promised they had «more visions up their sleeves.»

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