OPINION

ESR overhaul

One of the main expectations held by the broad majority that voted the conservative New Democracy party into power was that the new government would purge the system of political and business entanglement. The spearhead of this parallel system of power, so to speak, was, and still is, the entangled interests that control the media – particularly radio and television – so that they can put pressure on the political figures they wish to manipulate. This state of affairs has been so blatantly obvious as to prompt special legal – and subsequently constitutional provisions – aimed at preventing contractors and suppliers for public projects from holding stakes in media companies. The problem is that neither the legislation nor the special constitutional provision were successful in cutting the Gordian knot of vested interests. Using the pretext that their relatives possess their own private property, the businessmen in question were able to share out their stakes in construction and media companies to other family members and effectively sustain their grip on both. This debasement would not have taken place had the National Radio and Television Council (ESR) not degraded itself first. For it is ESR that has today failed to enforce a ban on such dual ownership. And it is ESR that has for years failed to impose transparency on the radio and television world. Only last week, the appearance of ESR members before Parliament’s Institutional Transparency Committee and the evasive remarks by ESR President Ioannis Laskaridis, who said that television channels may still not be granted their licenses and the relevant competition be nullified, sparked an uproar. There were harsh comments from Miltiades Evert, a member of New Democracy’s old guard, and former Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis. The question arises as to why ESR did not demand a legal amendment if it thought the legal framework was lacking. Without doubt, ESR has fallen short of the monitoring role with which it has been entrusted. Its poor functioning is also responsible for the existing chaos in radio and television, which prompted Evert to say that had he known what was to follow, he would not have encouraged the establishment of private radio and television in the first place. It has become clear that unless we overhaul the sleaze-ridden domain of private radio and television, the parallel system of power which lives off the exploitation of the media will persist. The government and Parliament must realize that if they wish to clean up this field, they must first overhaul ESR and the legal framework within which it functions.