Hollow pretexts

Prompted by rumors over the impending sale of the Pegasus media group, many complacent conservative political figures rushed to congratulate themselves on the success of the state tender bill. The breakdown of the talks may have left egg on the faces of government officials, but this does not change the fact that the new law intends to close any loopholes that allowed business people to sidestep the law. PASOK slammed the bill as a government bid to shift the media power balance. However, after the clamor generated by the scrapped deal the government cannot afford to be selective in applying the law. The legislation is a clear step toward cleaning up the existing state of affairs. Skeptics point out that the bill runs counter to EU law while also putting the brakes on business activity. Such concerns are legitimate. But we must consider a serious problem, namely that political and business entanglement does not only distort free market principles, it corrodes the essence of our democracy. Drastic steps must be taken, regardless of the undesirable side effects. To be sure, the bill will not do away with conflicting interests altogether. More laws have to be passed to tackle the problem’s significant remnants. In this war, like the one on corruption, there can be no final victory. Nor will legal measures suffice; laws are mere tools whose effectiveness depends on political will and competence. This is an endless fight on many fronts. The question is whether the new law can weaken entangled interests. Even its toughest critics believe it can. If PASOK were honest about fighting the problem, it would come with constructive alternatives in order to attain a bipartisan approach. But the opposition’s stance seems to be shaped by former Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s legacy. Inevitably, PASOK’s criticism has regressed into a shield for big media owners.