Political media

We will not comment on whether Socialist leader George Papandreou’s call for four ministers to resign over the phone-tapping scandal is right or wrong. The point is that opposition PASOK’s demand came five days after the controversial press briefing. The delay may stem from Papandreou’s poor political reflexes or his change of mind over the affair. Unfortunately, a third explanation sounds more plausible. We have in the past criticized the transformation of a section of the electronic media, particularly private television networks, which have started to actually make politics instead of just analyzing them. Papandreou last week said that «politicians must not manipulate the media or be manipulated by them.» The Socialist leader must ask himself whether his belated response was influenced by the overreaction of those sensationalist media types whom he accused of trying to manipulate our body politic. But it is not just Papandreou who is being submissive. The media pull their weight across the left-right spectrum and that is not merely a result of their power to shape public opinion. In fact, political parties have themselves given up part of their political role to the media. Ever since political confrontation shifted from Parliament into the television studios, the parties’ contact with the people has faded. It is increasingly giving way to publicity stunts that have effectively given mediator status to the media. Do our political parties think the media are responsible and unbiased enough to be given the role of mediator? It is not just that some of the media have a hidden agenda, as Papandreou suggested. Misinformation and sensationalism aiming to capture viewers’ attention and attract high ratings are not as bad as corruption. But they tend to be the rule in channels’ news programs. Politicians must act independently of the media’s influence which they have themselves fed.

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