PM on a collision course

The news was not that the prime minister vowed to wipe out the «five pimps» but the choice of words itself. Costas Karamanlis has repeatedly pledged to thwart political and business entanglement. But this time it’s different. He is a head of government. And it’s time he translated his words into action. Judging from his stand so far, Karamanlis has the political will, but only time will tell whether he can tackle the problem at its roots. A first test will be the bill on media ownership. The definition of what constitutes a «basic shareholder» is secondary. Most importantly, the law must block all legal loopholes people have used to flout constitutional prohibitions. Media shares must be registered and offshore companies be prohibited from owning media shares. Furthermore, media shares must not be allowed to pass into the hands of relatives who are supposedly economically independent and strict control over the provenance of funds must be introduced so as to rule out intermediaries. Finally, the radio and television watchdog (ESR) must function as a truly independent body. And this cannot happen unless it has the authority to demand immediate payment of fines. Many of the conservative officials would like to reach a deal with the media barons in order to ensure political support. Karamanlis’s strong words signaled that he is moving in the opposite direction – a stand which is partially, at least, a reaction to the below-the-belt blows he suffered during his opposition tenure. In any case, taking on entanglement will also benefit Karamanlis on a political level. Should he choose a head-on collision course with vested interests, a plague that undermines the democratic system, he will find support across the left-right spectrum.