Press under pressure

Across the world, newspapers are embroiled in a crisis that threatens their very existence. Reports yesterday about the closure of the Eleftheros Typos daily have fanned concerns about the future of Greek newspapers. «A lossmaking news medium cannot be kept in operation for too long without raising suspicions,» said a statement released by ET’s owners. The truth is that many newspapers face continual losses but this does not prevent them from being in business. Outside Greece, owners are obliged to submit an annual declaration of assets and source of funds. In this country we get only rumors and conspiracy theories, some of them justified, about how the various media manage to survive. The fact is a newspaper can barely make ends meet by selling copies alone. This is why many Greek newspapers have also operated as levers of political pressure, that is, as a dubious means of promoting more profitable business interests. That’s one issue. A second issue is the widespread belief among union leaders that the media can survive despite huge financial losses, a massive drop in advertising revenue and generous salary hikes. At some point, however, we must face up to the stark reality of numbers and initiate a meaningful dialogue on the future of the sector. Knee-jerk reactions may indicate the frustration of a great number of people, but they also risk further damaging the nation. We need a substantial debate, not an exchange of barbs and accusations. A third issue is that Greek media must at long last operate with the same rules and standards. The unfair competition from small and big players who dodge their phone bills or social security contributions cannot go on. Offering state subsidies is one thing; trying to manipulate specific media is quite another. Greeks have suddenly woken up to the international crisis. We can ignore reality and carry on as before. Or we can show a minimum of responsibility and begin a pragmatic debate about what must be done, before it’s too late.