Tender bill stirs strong emotions

One day after talks on the sale of a major media group broke down, the bill that prompted the negotiations was approved, in principle, by Parliament yesterday following a heated debate. The draft law, which aims to prevent media barons from using their influence to secure lucrative public contracts, was attacked by opposition PASOK MPs as having been drawn up with specific businessmen in mind who run media critical of the government. «The bill only punishes those who are supposedly inimical to you, and favors those who supposedly back you,» former Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos said. Former Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou claimed that «the government’s choice to take draconian measures on the matter of [public tenders], while neglecting or downplaying other issues conceals a hidden agenda.» But Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras defended the bill as an attempt to get rid of the «marked deck of cards» governing state contracts. The debate ends today. The draft law prevents anyone owning 1 percent or more in a media firm – and their close relatives – from competing for state contracts. It prompted last week’s bid by construction magnate Giorgos Bobolas to sell his controlling stake in the Pegasus media group, which includes the Ethnos and Imerissia dailies and holds a stake in Mega TV, to shipping magnate Theodoros Angelopoulos. The talks broke down on Tuesday. Yesterday, an Ethnos editorial claimed the bill had been drafted with Pegasus alone in mind, adding that efforts to sell the group would continue.