Media bill

Reports on the pending government bill on media ownership seem to confirm the conservative government’s pledge to wage war on political and business entanglement. The important thing is not whether the person who controls more than 1 or 2 percent of the share capital is the «main shareholder.» The crucial aim, rather, is to block all legal loopholes that have so far allowed wrongdoers to circumvent the law on conflicting interests. It should be noted that Greece’s revised constitution forbids media barons from winning public tenders. The aim of the new legislation is to thwart the growth of conflicting interests in the money-media-politics power triangle. Over the years, political and business entanglement has reached unnerving proportions and now threatens the very essence of our democratic system. In that context, hypocrisy was to be expected. The now-departed Socialist government went as far as to claim that no public contractor is a primary shareholder in any media group. Of course, it was an open secret that the opposite was the case. PASOK simply hid behind the transparent excuse that the big media groups were largely controlled by offshore companies. Hence the crucial issue is to have shares registered and to bar control of shares by offshore firms. In addition, the new legislation must ban ownership by family members with supposed «economic independence.» Such changes are unlikely to do away with intertwined interests altogether, but they will at least curb the phenomenon. The state’s power in the matter is far from absolute. But it can still close the loopholes on the legal plane and exercise strict monitoring at all levels – and particularly on the declaration of assets (known in Greece as the «pothen esches»). This is reported to be the political objective of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the responsible ministers and it is expected to be reflected in the bill. Should available information be confirmed, Karamanlis will finally put an end to the hypocrisy and uncertainty that have allowed the conflicting interests to thrive. The premier owes this to society and to himself after his bitter experience as opposition leader, during which he suffered repeated below-the-belt blows. By launching a war on the entangled interests that are putting the brakes on the country’s progress, Karamanlis will be meeting a cross-party demand that is likely to generate support from across the political spectrum.