Parties agree on TV watchdog, paving way for new auction

Parties agree on TV watchdog, paving way for new auction

After several failed attempts, representatives of the various political parties on Thursday agreed on the composition of the National Broadcasting Council (ESR), a key step toward breaking an impasse that followed a top court’s declaration of a government auction of television licenses as being unconstitutional.

The agreement required State Minister Nikos Pappas, who oversaw the auction, to concede on a number of issues.

Parliament Speaker Nikos Voutsis, a SYRIZA official who chaired Thursday’s session of deputy House speakers representing the different political parties, agreed to a demand by the opposition that licenses be granted to more than just four TV channels as foreseen in Pappas’s auction.

The opposition parties had demanded that the authority for overseeing the auction be transferred back to ESR.

Originally, Pappas passed a law that had moved that authority from ESR to him. His reasoning at the time had been that the political opposition, notably conservative New Democracy, had been obstructing the composition of ESR’s board.

The ESR board, as agreed upon on Thursday, will be led by Athanasios Koutromanos, a former president of the Supreme Court who was proposed by ND. The vice president will be Rodolfos Moronis, a journalist and former ESR member.

Conservative cadres struck a triumphant tone after the meeting. “We succeeded in ensuring that there will be a truly objective, independent and strong ESR,” an ND official said.

Presenting the agreement, Voutsis said, “We must move forward quickly, so that frequencies can be issued in a controlled and transparent fashion.”

Opposition officials were in agreement. Former conservative House speaker Evangelos Meimarakis said: “We must send out a strong message that the broadcasting landscape must be regulated in a transparent way. The image that must be conveyed is one of coordination not transaction.”

Pappas, who was promoted to minister for digital policy, telecommunications and media in the recent government reshuffle despite the fiasco with the auction, also issued a statement on Thursday night.

“The road is now open for the competition and for licensing,” he said, adding that the human resources and technology used in the auction were available for ESR to use.

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