Turn on for regional TV

Television viewers could soon be watching channels with news and information about their area if the government proceeds with plans for the creation of viable stations for each of the country’s regions instead of smaller channels of dubious quality, sources told Kathimerini yesterday. Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos began an open discussion earlier this month about ways to improve broadcasting in Greece. He put forward 11 proposals for discussion during the dialogue, which is due to last until February 16. The government intends to submit a relevant bill to Parliament in the spring. The public can submit ideas via the Internet and government sources said that there have been numerous calls so far for improvement to the quality of television programs. Roussopoulos has pinpointed the proliferation of regional channels as being a main cause of the problem. Many of the channels offer viewers little else than a regular diet of quizzes and card readings that require them to call premium rate 090 phone numbers for a chance of winning prizes or having their future predicted. Instead, the government wants to create regional channels that will be forced to employ local people and transmit programs that are exclusively focused on local issues. Sources said that Roussopoulos is also considering offering incentives for channels to merge and form bigger organizations. There are currently 13 regions in Greece but there have been discussions at the Interior Ministry for boundaries to be redrawn and the number of regions to be reduced to five. The process by which broadcasting licenses are granted is another area that has often come under scrutiny. There are currently 159 stations around the country operating on temporary licenses, according to the National Council for Radio and Television (ESR). Sources close to Roussopoulos told Kathimerini yesterday that they are determined to put an end to the ever-growing number of channels appearing in Greece since the numbers are completely disproportionate to the country’s population.