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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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''Αggeliosimo'' is a special tax calculated as 20% of the invoice value of print, radio and television advertising and it has been in force for many years. Accrued amounts go to the insurance/pension fund of the members of the Journalists' Unions of Athens and Thessaloniki, in lieu of the employers' contribution for insurance and pension, which is not paid by the owners of media companies. It is therefore a tax in benefit of a third party, a kind of tax that the government has committed to repeal as of 01.01.2015 and is afraid to do so, as journalists and publishers threaten to oppose them - the former for ending up with a pension fund with no resources and the latter because they will be obliged to pay an employer's contribution as every regular employer. Note that the beneficiaries are only the journalists who are members of the two unions, i.e. a small part of all those working as journalists.

Would you compare the media markets in Greece and Bulgaria based on your experience in both countries?

Allow me not to try to. I would be wrong either to my country or to yours and I do not want to be so. It has been years since I was last active in Bulgaria (I had business activities in Bulgaria between 2004 and 2010) and I do not have an updated and complete picture, although I follow various notable Bulgarian internet sites on a regular basis.

How would you comment on the way in which the changes were introduced, namely with an amendment to a bill on a totally different topic, at the last moment and without any prior discussion? Do you think that some forethought lies behind this?

Unfortunately, this has been a generic practice of our government in recent years. The only extremely urgent issue in these amendments (two were related to the Media) on the one hand was the pressure on the government to bail out with taxpayers’ money the two big, friendly media groups that are intertwined with politicians, even through dissolving the advertising market (the first amendment) and the government's decision to control the state radio-television network to the full extent and to the benefit of the ruling parties on the other (the second amendment). Now the Minister will appoint 7 of the 10 members of the supervisory board by a simple decision, whereas an independent panel did this before through CVs, interviews etc. There surely is expediency behind these changes and it is no other than the fact that the government is preparing for elections at some convenient time in between October 2014 and February 2015 since they cannot form a majority in parliament (180 votes) to elect the President of Democracy next March.

And since many will talk about the flow of "black" money between politicians, media groups and advertising companies, that has to be addressed, we all agree to this in principle, but the black money laundering can be addressed with more transparency and fewer intertwining points, aka less state regulation in the market and less "Soviet-style" laws. With a healthy market liberalization and not with overregulation of everything and exhaustive interference in everyday transactions, as this requires a huge bureaucratic control mechanism, completely useless for a modern society. With the sole exception that such a mechanism would justify sinecure positions for various civil servants loyal to the ruling parties and, of course, for the proportionate union bosses...

How would you comment on the changes in the advertising market?

What is provocative here is that the government intervenes in the market and prohibits something that applies worldwide, namely the functioning of media shops as the administrator of the ad spending of the advertisers that choose to take advantage of their services. Now, advertisers should enter only in direct negotiations and agreement with the media company and will only be invoiced directly, and not through any kind of intermediates. As for media shops, they can have only an advisory role to facilitate customer finding for the media as well as the collection of invoiced services, their remuneration not exceeding a total of 4%! Actually this means that they will become the employees that media would like to have but do not want to employ and pay of course!

Until recently, an advertiser in the Greek market could negotiate either directly with the medium (print, radio, television) or through a third party (advertising agency, media shop). Media shops emerged as a market need for advertisement options at a reasonable cost, at times when the media wanted to charge more and more to advertisers. Media shops always belonged to large advertising groups or partnerships of advertising groups and immediately opened the market to all companies that wanted their services.

Tags: MediaLawMergerMedia groupsPolitical interestsEarly electionsAdvertisinng market
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