OPINION

The media, a mirror of crisis

One look at the state of the Greek media industry goes a long way toward explaining the problems in the economy. Over the past few decades, the number of print media and television stations has overshot the true size of the market. The printed press is multiplying and no one can explain why Greece has more newspapers than countries that have a much larger population nor how small publications with little circulation and low revenues manage to survive. The media, however, have long operated under a regime of lawlessness, whether it be broadcasting without a proper license or shirking social security payments and refusing to pay their utility bills. Politicians cultivated this mentality because they believed it gave them a hold over the media. At the same time, the state pandered to media owners with lucrative advertising contracts and no one questioned the funding of inserts, special editions et cetera by the state. Banks, in turn, funded the media freely because of the special relationship they had with the politicians without much thought to their financial viability. Many, meanwhile, saw owning a TV station or a newspaper as leverage for exerting influence in favor of their other businesses rather than as an independent activity. Things are very much changed now. The state no longer has the money; banks are more wary about issuing loans and advertising revenues have plummeted. The Greek media find themselves heavily in debt and with high costs of operation in the midst of the country’s biggest economic crisis. Another bubble has burst because the system can no longer sustain it. What remains to be seen is how bumpy the landing will be for the various forms of media and how high the price for the people working in the media, as well as to what extent the government will impose existing regulations and laws so that we come out of the crisis with a smaller but healthier sector.