Media impunity

The distorting effect of the media – television channels in particular – has posed an acute political problem by unleashing a wrenching debate over how smoothly our democratic institutions actually function. The anarchy in the radio and television landscape, which had been deliberately nourished by the PASOK’s governments for over 15 years in an attempt to hold channels to ransom, has taken on unnerving proportions. A big chunk of the media has fallen into the hands of ruthless business tycoons. Taking advantage of the general sense of impunity, they have managed to promote their interests – which usually are totally alien to the media business. The prolonged anarchy has in turn created a second anomaly – the emergence of a peculiar media underworld which is gradually weaning itself off the centers that used to feed it in exchange for their support. The activities of this underworld pose a direct threat to the well-being of Greece’s political system. President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias has described the country’s politicians as bastions of morality against this deterioration in values elsewhere. «All institutions have been debased by those who fancy themselves as national prosecutors through the media, and who do nothing else but dishonor the institutions of this state and nation which will not be capable of surviving if its institutions break down,» Archbishop Christodoulos said in his Sunday sermon. Public concern about the totalitarian-style effects of mediocracy is also growing. The government must react by taking action on two levels: The conservative government must, first, put an end to the chaotic ownership status in the media business and eradicate the current state of impunity. Second, it must shift gears and improve its effectiveness in order to be the one that sets the agenda instead of standing paralyzed as unscrupulous media barons formulate the agenda instead. The ruling conservatives should not expect any help from PASOK on this one. After all, it was the Socialists who allowed the web of corruption to flourish in the first place. It was the entangled media that backed the governments of Costas Simitis, while PASOK is again taking pleasure as the government suffers anew from these media attacks. The Socialist leadership obviously thinks that it will be able to tap into that corrupt network when (if) it returns to power. Meanwhile, it pays little heed to the damage done to our national institutions.