Stopping the snake oil salesmen
It is common knowledge that the election of Kyriakos Velopoulos, leader of the far-right Greek Solution (Elliniki Lysi) party, to Parliament following the recent general election was a result of his preferential treatment by Greece’s TV channels.
The 53-year-old politician took advantage of wide media exposure across the country. He bought time so he could sell his snake oil products or the “letters handwritten by Jesus” (Velopoulos apparently holds the exclusive rights to sell these documents) mixed with nationalist mumbo jumbo, ill-informed theories and other bizarre commentary.
His shows targeted the naive, conspiracy theorists and ultranationalists. He gained wide publicity among these groups of people, who, in turn, rewarded him with their vote at the ballot box.
All that inevitably raises a question which concerns neither the electoral preferences nor the wisdom of the Greek people, or of the section of the population that voted for him.
The question rather has to do with the rule book governing the operation of the nation’s radio and television networks as well as advertising content.
The National Council for Radio and Television (ESR), Greece’s independent broadcasting regulator, was set up in order to authorize and monitor the operation of radio and TV networks. Airing commercials is part of their operation and this is why ESR has issued a specific set of regulations on advertising.
After all, there are specific laws that determine the status and ethics of advertising so as to protect consumers from misleading messages.
That said, no agency or authority actually bothered to investigate the products promoted by Velopoulos, from his voodoo medicine to the letters of Christ.
Thanks to the tolerance and the indifference of the Greek state, Velopoulos became a well-known figure and was eventually voted into the 300-member House.
The problems do not stop there as Velopoulos is not an isolated case. He just happens to be a politician. Greek TV, including public broadcaster ERT, casually airs commercials featuring quack remedies sold at ridiculous prices further inflated by shipping costs.
As part of a return to normality citizens should be protected against efforts to defraud them, against the nefarious shenanigans that we have witnessed over the years.
Another problem is the ease with which loans are given out without any proper guarantees, leading to more complications for all involved.