With TV aerials sprouting up everywhere, a media that’s run amok has turned into a bad soap opera

The introduction of private television in 1989 resulted at first in frank euphoria at the abolition, at long last, of the state monopoly over the electronic mass media. But in the 15 years that have elapsed since the first private television channel set up, things have changed radically. The situation is now dismal. Successive governments and the political system as a whole have tolerated the penetration of private television by various interests. The right of people to objective information, which is the obligation of a democratic state, is in the hands of individuals who use private television in order to promote their own interests, which are usually economic. That the task of informing the public is in private hands is not in itself objectionable. On the contrary, it is a prerequisite for enabling a multitude of voices to make themselves heard and for independence from the State. Newspapers, after all, belong to private individuals. But whereas everyone has to pay for a paper, television has pervaded the home. The power of the moving image has a decisive influence upon the viewer. Frequency pirates In this anarchic field, nine to 10 nationwide television channels are basically working illegally, without operating licenses, using television frequencies that are state property. Essentially, this is piracy, carried out in the name of informing the public by people who create companies of doubtful financial sustainability. The political establishment turns a blind eye in order not to create the impression of «anti-democratic behavior» by intervening forcefully. In France, by contrast, a country with a long democratic tradition, the number of local TV stations is no higher than 25, or one television station per 2.3 million viewers. The equivalent figure in Greece is one to 70,000. Everyone in the political world, and not just ordinary citizens, are victims of this situation, as they are forced to jostle for the necessary publicity and support. The need for private television in a democratic society is beyond question. But television stations that do not meet conditions of financial sustainability and do not conform to the strictest professional ethics are an open wound. For the good of the people and the political system in this country, they should be shut down.