Screening the screen

As the viewing public was deluged with endless talk shows analyzing the proliferating nepotism allegations (prompted by the controversial transfers of ministers’ student children to more prestigious universities), the Parliament’s Institutional Transparency Committee presented a unanimous interparty report that confirmed the State’s failure to monitor the dire situation in the field of radio and television. The findings of the report were to be expected. Fifteen years after the abolition of the state monopoly on radio and television, things look grim. Although our share in advertising is dwarfed by that of big European countries, Greece is home to a strikingly large number of regional television networks. One hundred and fifty local channels are currently striving for survival – one for every 70,000 citizens. Greece is second only to Spain. Things are equally bad with respect to the national channels. The law sets a maximum of six broadcast permits but we already have 10 networks broadcasting across the country while another six are waiting for the green light. The result is an excessive number of businesses in an ailing market where prospects for profit are scant – if they exist at all. However, businessmen keep investing their money in television channels. They are less motivated by profit from broadcasts and more from the benefits accruing from assiduously courting political interests through the network. Big channels can bring back billions to those who control them. Profits are, of course, set lower for local and regional channels. The need to trim operational costs means low-quality programs and dubious fund-raising methods, like TV quiz shows where would-be players are overcharged through being kept on hold when making calls. Over the past 15 years, private television has been transformed into a double vice. On the one hand, conflicting interests impose their own news at the expense of a ranking dictated by common sense and political analysis. On the other hand, the need to attract viewers at the lowest possible cost makes quality the lowest priority. State television has not escaped unscathed from the process and is trying to extract higher ratings by hosting lifestyle programs. According to the Constitution, the State has the obligation to monitor the quality of radio and television programs. The government must put an end to the idiocy and mudslinging currently flooding our television screens and move on to curb the cheap reality shows that pander to our baser instincts. Private television is not a license to mislead and stupefy.

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