It’s time for the media and other interests to part

«Who rules here?» is the classic question. These days, a photograph of the owners of private media is often the answer. Among recent testy exchanges on television show interviews on issues that might expose the government and the opposition, but in no way affect our lives or seriously engage society’s attention, the former speaker of Parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis, said during a debate in the competent parliamentary committee: «Unfortunately, for 17 years now, the political world has been making exactly the same mistake. We have left democracy and freedom of expression… to the discretion of a handful of people, six businessmen at the most, who unfortunately feel no need for anything besides… profit… The government of the people does not rule.» And he warned the government that «it is losing precious time, both for itself and for this land.» It should be crystal-clear who the precise owners of a media company are, he pointed out. This viewpoint was expressed during a debate by Parliament’s Institutions and Transparency Committee, in which the government, through a letter via Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, announced that it was considering taking certain legislative initiatives. The basic aim was to «determine the necessary structural changes» that would reduce wriggle room for undermining transparency in the public sector. When in opposition, New Democracy had declared it would abolish the basic shareholder clause levied by PASOK, which gave large state contractors the chance to own directly up to 4.99 percent of a mass-media company’s share media capital, and more through relatives «who could prove their economic self-sufficiency.» Indicatively, this clause is drawing fire from within PASOK’s ranks, though its main author, former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, still defends it. Until now, of course, the implementation of the law has only managed to net two small contractors with two bulldozers and a local radio station. Now herein lies the challenge.