The destabilizing fabrications that emerged through repeated mudslinging against several political figures and the president himself, and which prompted a fierce response against the schemers, appears to have awakened the government to the problems of the electronic media. As regards the realm of private radio and television – which is still in disorder, while the status of broadcast permits remains vague – the government now appears determined to complete, in tandem with the National Broadcasting Council, the procedure for granting broadcast permits to all private radio and television stations and for formulating a code of ethics. The government is even considering the possibility of banning the publication of news broadcast ratings. This process may be warmly promoted today, but it is unacceptably belated. The issue of permits and the stations’ regulative framework should have been settled many years ago so as to avoid the current mess – whether one refers to the confusion over the status of permits and the arbitrary operation of certain stations or to the low quality of television programs and to the competition among our base TV stars to vilify and defame public figures and common citizens. Besides, the only way to apply the rule of incompatibility preventing media owners from undertaking public assignments is by regulating the airwaves, which, in turn, is an essential prerequisite for fair competition between the various networks. So long as this incompatibility is not reinforced, stations whose main aim is to promote organized economic or political interests are allowed to broadcast. Such stations may do great harm but they yield considerable indirect benefits to their owners, helping them to sign profitable state contracts – and hence undermine the independent networks. Settlement of these issues will not only help combat economic and political entanglement but also the current lack of respect toward citizens; an indifference that is clearly reflected in the ongoing broadcast of shows by figures who brag they have been indicted for slander. A state permeated by the rule of law shouldn’t need an occasion such as the recent fabricated mudslinging to restore order to the airwaves. However, even on this occasion and despite the delay, the goal remains the right one and the government’s reassurances are welcome. This is provided it will make a genuine attempt to impose a rational solution rather than one-sided measures and big words that will disguise back doors serving party objectives. Besides, Prime Minister Costas Simitis – who has been at the country’s helm for the past six years – has yet to visit an Arab country. Once again, with this visit Stephanopoulos, who invited President Assad to pay a return visit to Athens, attempted to cover at least some of the vacuum in the ruling PASOK party’s foreign policy.

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