Draft law to ban media owners from state deals

Three senior members of the government – the justice and interior ministers as well as the minister of state for communications – yesterday held a joint press conference to present a long-awaited draft law intended to break the power of media entrepreneurs seeking access to lucrative public contracts. In a bid to thwart the practice of businesspeople banned from state contracts by existing legislation from sheltering behind offshore companies, all holdings in media firms, as well as in companies taking part in tenders for major public works, will be registered under the new bill. Furthermore, there will be a major cut, from 5 to 1 percent, in the minimum percentage of share capital whose ownership legally precludes businesspeople from winning state contracts. This 1 percent ceiling will also apply to holders of voting rights. Also, the close relatives – with the exception of cousins – of such «major» media shareholders will be banned from access to state contracts. «The new regulations mean that media enterprises will not be used as battering rams to extract benefits from the state, against the interests of the people,» Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who is also the government spokesman, told yesterday’s press conference. «The penalties for breaches of the law will be strict.» The bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week. Opposition parties, on the whole, expressed approval for the draft law yesterday. «Any measure that effectively boosts transparency and fights corruption will enjoy our support,» PASOK main opposition party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said. He added, however, that the bill made public yesterday «does not provide substantial answers on [matters of corruption], creates confusion and does not offer credible solutions.» The Communist Party (KKE) expressed qualified support for the measures, but claimed that the new bill would not prevent «the plutocracy from benefiting from state contracts.» Synaspismos Left Coalition backed the proposals, while stressing that «it is very significant that the necessary reforms should be fully implemented.»