Greece Government and Media
Government Type: Parliamentary Republic
Head of State: President Katerina Sakellaropoulou
Head of Government: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Political Party: New Democracy Party
Political Position: Right Center
World Press Freedom Rank: Greece 65/180
According to Reporters Without Borders following the 2019 elections a “presidential decree, placed public broadcaster ERT and state news agency ANA-MPA under the direct supervision of the new Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.” In addition, they note that “It remains to be seen how this new set-up will affect press freedom in the country.” Furthermore, RFS also draws attention to Journalists frequently being targeted by the police during demonstrations. Finally, the International Press Institute (IPI) reports that in 2020, “ad revenue from a public health advertising campaign related to Covid-19 was not distributed fairly, with media perceived as critical of the government receiving disproportionately less revenue or excluded from the scheme altogether.”
Government Influence on Media: Greek Media consists of a mix of corporately owned media outlets as well as state-owned TV and radio stations. There are several major corporations that own media, some of the biggest are Alter Ego Media SA, Pegasus Group, Kathimerini AE, and Tegopoulos AE. The private media ownership structure is characterized by complexity and a lack of transparency. Corporations that control media outlets are owned by some of Greece’s most powerful business families and they also hold leadership positions in significant economic sectors. This high concentration of cross-ownership makes it difficult to determine who the true owners are. The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) reports “obligations for the print media are limited to indicating the director and the publisher/owner on their copies without going to the level of final ownership.” As a result of the complexity of shareholding structures, it is difficult to determine the final owner. Reuters, reports on the relationship between politics, big business, and powerful media owners, and complex relationships of these sectors, for example, Pegasus Publishing S.A. publishes the newspaper Ethnos, the magazines Ethnosport, Ethnos TV, and more. It is owned by Bobolas Family, and Bobolas is also a shareholder in Greece’s largest construction group, Ellaktor. Their economic activities depend largely on state contracts and in Greece the state plays a large role in the economy, which may lead to improper influence or seeking favors.
In 2016, the government granted through auction, four private national TV licenses which were criticized by opposition political parties and later deemed unconstitutional. The Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) is the main regulator for private and public broadcast media, It grants licenses to private radio stations and TV, and also suspends or cancels licenses. NCRTV consists of nine members who are nominated by the special body of Parliament. Further, The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) (the Greek equivalent of the BBC) is the state-owned public radio and tv broadcaster. In 2013, ERT was closed by the right-center New Democracy Party and then prime minister Antonis Samaras who according to The Globe and Mail, called ERT “one of the bastions of obscurity and privileges” and “a haven of waste” and a “sinful” component of a state that has become a “Jurassic Park of inefficiency and corruption.” In 2015, the left party, Syriza came to power and re-opened ERT. In 2019, through a presidential decree, ERT and ANA-MPA were placed under the supervision of the Center-Right New Democracy Party and current Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that could affect press freedom. The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) is funded by a license fee, paid with an electricity bill tax of 3€ monthly or 36€ annually.
In conclusion, the Greek government has direct and indirect control over media outlets, especially the public broadcasters which are controlled by the government and influenced by the ruling political party. Private media on the other hand is dominated by shipowners and construction moguls who are not transparent in their ownership of media.
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