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Political umbrella for major media in return for support for possible early elections

07 August 2014 / 20:08:56  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

After stormy debates and public reactions the second summer session of the Greek Parliament adopted with a majority an amendment to the law on the media and advertising market. Shortly before the vote, a second amendment was submitted that modified the control over the state radio and television broadcasters.

The legal text facilitates the consolidation in the Greek media market through the merger of media, but analysts say this does not seek its recovery but aims to save from bankruptcy mainstream media that are friendly to the government. Behind the changes in the billing cost of advertising they see the willingness of the government to direct to specific media the funds planned for advertising.

GRReporter turned for comment to Yiannis Triantafyllou, marketing director of "To atomo" consulting company who has over 20 years of experience as a member of the management of companies operating in the field of technology in Greece and other European countries. His connection with marketing is due to his mathematical education and the written communication that has evolved from a hobby into a profession. During his student years, he worked as a journalist and since 1994, he has been engaged in content engineering and marketing. The activity of his company is to provide to Greek and international companies specialised advice and services in areas such as inbound marketing, content engineering and business development.

Is there a need for consolidation of the Greek media market?

Yes, at the present time it is necessary for two big media groups to merge, as this may be the only option for them to avoid closure. The issue of course is not just the merger. In order for the merger to be functional, banks have to write off the biggest part of the loans of the two groups (about 2/3 of the total and we are talking about many millions of euro!), a process which cannot and should not be done without transparency, as the Greek banks have been operating under state control after the crisis and have been recapitalised with money of European citizens.

From then on, the option for two companies to merge operations cannot and should not be a legislative decision of a democratic government, as governments should simply check that the rules of fair competition are observed and that the merged company will not obtain a monopoly position in the market. That is exactly what the current Greek government is not willing to do...

What traps does this set for the other media? Do you think that the procedures will be completed in the right way?

If the merger takes place on business terms and under the proper monitoring by the Competition Commission, then there can be no traps. In our case however, all things indicate that the merger is based on political terms, with a mind on protection of the owners of the two groups in order for them to continue to support the same political interests with which they have been intertwined for decades. Therefore, the trap for them would be to have unpredictable reactions either from the European Commission or from the citizens, their audience.

What do you think the consequences of the creation of large media groups would be for society and freedom of speech?

When the media market is free and properly operating, it is healthy to have big media organizations (e.g. BBC, CNN etc.) that are subject to business rules, i.e. to be funded solely through their activity and not through political intertwining. At the same time, governments must ensure that there is no concentration of the market in the hands of persons or companies and, by law, they must give to all, even to smaller groups or companies, the chance to compete. Otherwise, we have monopolies or oligopolies that "guarantee" nothing but biased information in favour of the interests they serve.

Do you consider as correct the decision to cancel the obligation of public companies to publish their annual financial statements in the regional press?

The proposed amendment was in the right direction, regardless of the fact that the government finally yielded to pressure from local MPs and withdrew it. All public announcements and procurement calls have recently become public through the websites of the government, which is both more functional and more economical. Maintaining the mandatory publication in local or regional newspapers is intervention in the market and constitutes State Aid to private entrepreneurs, which is prohibited by EU law. Local media have to do real business to earn the capital they need to survive and profit, and they should not count on the government sharing citizens’ taxes!

Why has not the "aggeliosimo" tax been completely eliminated? Who benefits from its retention?

Tags: MediaLawMergerMedia groupsPolitical interestsEarly electionsAdvertisinng market
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