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SYRIZA encroaches on private TV as well

04 April 2015 / 21:04:14  GRReporter
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The fracas over the ‘rent’, which TV channels are demanded to pay for the use of frequencies, is heating up. And suddenly the poker with the government has turned into arm-wrestling.

First came the list of Yannis Varoufakis, which includes the imposition of the 20% tax on television advertising since June. There were projections for earnings of €50 to 70 million. Then the finance minister decided to investigate thoroughly the issue of indebted media and made an urgent request with the Bank of Greece for relevant data.

Finally, the general secretariat for information systems of the Ministry of Finance and Economy published a list of frequency-use debt of television channels with national coverage totalling €24 million. What can be added to Varoufakis’ list is the projected amount of €350 million to be gained after tendering out frequencies. Now it becomes quite clear why all channel owners have been plucking their hair.

It made sense that at some point the government would realign itself for a counterattack. There was no way that it would have endured the blows of private channels' news shows (of some of them at least...) without ever having tried to do something about it. Indirectly, through the restoration of state television, and directly – by opening up the television market for anyone interested. And as everyone knows, there is no shortage of those who are out of the game but would like a place in it. Nevertheless, the tip of the iceberg is, as ever in such cases, money.

Lists of channels’ liabilities have been published more than once. And voices have already been heard that these amounts are inflated. And the key argument of the channels reads: frequency charges are offset by free advertising that all political parties enjoy during election campaigns."

In turn, the government, in a non-paper issued yesterday, highlighted that by law the channels have to pay 2% of their annual turnover for the use of frequencies. The document says: "But there is no provision on a compensation for that charge. Such deductions were last signed off by the former minister of state, Pantelis Capsis, for the years through 2010, but since then no such decision has been made."

Who is right? They all are, strange as it may seem. Let's go back to the 2012 parliamentary elections. The presidential decree entitled "airing of election messages of political parties by broadcasting channels," clearly states that "the transmission of election messages of parties and coalitions is free of charge and exempt from taxes."

At the same time, a ministerial decision of 18 April, signed by Interior Minister Anastassios Giannitsis and minister of state Pantelis Capsis, lists political parties' debt for advertising spots in private channels: PASOK - €1,999,800, New Democracy - €1999,800, the Communist Party - €504,000, LAOS - €376,200, SYRIZA - €307,200, Environmentalists-Greens - €169,200, the Democratic Left - €201,000, the Independent Greeks - €201,000, Social Agreement - €160,800, Democratic Union - €80,400.

Therefore, the government was entitled to claim that the channels have to pay ‘rent’ for the frequencies and channels have the right to gripe over lost earnings, that is, they could have advertised commodities every single minute they spent advertising political parties. This is strongly reminiscent of the shop owner who refuses to pay taxes as the state delays his VAT refunding.

The mess is ongoing.

Tags: private TV frequencies fees advertising
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