OPINION

Overregulation

Kathimerini has repeatedly expressed concern over the low quality of journalism practiced by a large section of radio stations and television channels, and the overall debasement of the media, which is a result of fierce competition to increase rates at the lowest possible cost. This note is being sounded bearing in mind the seriousness of the problem which is connected, on one hand, to the acute conflict between respect for the freedom of expression and a code of ethics and, on the other, to the conflict between quality and profit – which is, as with all firms, one of the media’s top priorities. In light of these dilemmas, which are common in all democratic societies, it’s hard to say with certainty whether the faults of the local networks are, in fact, graver than those of their Western counterparts. What one can single out as a Greek particularity, however, is that contrary to the developed countries, the mess in which our media are stuck derives from the central authority. It is indicative of the situation that the channels are still operating without state permits. Their degeneration has been tolerated by the State, which has shown no resistance whatsoever. Even the penalties imposed by the National Radio and Television Council (ESR) have not been signed by the responsible minister and have yet to be imposed. Despite its occasional pledges, ESR has achieved little – perhaps because of its bipartisan nature. In the midst of all this, and without any prior attempt to rehabilitate the media, Press Minister Christos Protopappas presented a draft presidential decree aimed at regulating the content of journalistic television programs on the basis of a cluster of legal conditions ranging from the grammar and syntax of the programs to a ban on the broadcast of «fiery» slogans so common in protest rallies. Faced with complete chaos, the State aspires to impose general guidelines to uphold the «quality level demanded by the social mission of television» as well as specified rules on the prior briefing of guests hosted in panels. It seems that, prompted by concerns over the debasement of television, the State is showing an urge for overregulation, an effort that betrays an authoritarian bent. However, the drive for overregulation and control is a threat to the freedom of expression. It would be wiser to first complete the procedure for granting permits to the entitled networks. This would allow the drawing of a proper code of ethics free of pompous remarks which could jeopardize freedom in the future.