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We are society in which changes occur overnight and the media are our mirror image

29 December 2010 / 12:12:20  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Stelios Papatanasopoulos is professor of media organization and politics and dean of the Faculty of Communications and Mass Media at the University of Athens, guest - professor at the City University in London and member of Euromedia Research Group and the Network of European Political Communication Scholars. Author of the book Media Perspectives in XIX Century and various publications in academic journals.

According to Stelios Papatanasopoulos, there are three reasons for "the most competitive period" in the history of the Greek media over the last twenty years: the huge drop in circulation of newspapers and mainly the political dailies, the lack of control of broadcasting because no licenses have been issued and serious budget constraints of the media that are largely due to the economic crisis and the large outflow of commercials. Stelios Papatanasopoulos believes this is due to the lack of communication strategy in Greece and also to the fact that most businessmen – media owners – used the media as a tool of political pressure in favour of other activities.

According to him, "the result of this is a lack of even short-term media strategy. On the other hand, most TV stations operate through the perspective of the owners’ interests and their employees are turned into objects of exploitation, working in conditions of constant uncertainty." He says that to forecast the future of the Greek media is so risky as to make weather forecast over the next three months. He believes, however, that the time has come to witness the "great shrinking" in conventional media, newspapers, magazines and radio stations. According to Stelios Papatanasopoulos, television is in the best position in comparison with the other media, but this does not mean that some channels will not be closed or merged, or that others will not be paid.

I tried to find the answers to the questions relating to the present and the future of the media in Greece in conversation with Stelios Papatanasopoulos.

What do you think is the reason for the huge drop in newspapers circulation?

First, let me say that the appearance of private television 20 years ago undermined not only the state television ERT. It undermined especially newspapers. We could say that the information was liberalized in some way from the moment the private television became a reality. The audience, which had previously been accustomed to watch only state television, began to hear other and different opinions. This need for information was a priority of newspapers until then, which gave voice to different positions, to the opinion of the opposition, to the other voice. Private television channels offered this since their appearance and it was difficult for the newspapers to respond.

Moreover, I think there has never been large circulation of newspapers in the full sense of the word not only in Greece but throughout Europe, in countries such as Bulgaria, Italy, France and Spain. Newspapers never had circulation of 1 million units, for example, in their history. 250,000 units are not large circulations, as we say here. In the presence of such conditions in a country where newspapers are not read and where the situation has changed newspapers also had to change with the advent of private television. Unfortunately, they did nothing. They lost their comparative advantage on information and tried to defend themselves in silly ways. One of them was to follow the television tactics. They began to write short texts with small titles and the content of most newspapers is related to what happens behind the scenes. They believe that this will attract more readers, but this is also something that easily transfers to television. There are no analyses in the newspapers; they do not go into details. Long articles in Greek newspapers contain an average of 600-700 words. Why a reader should buy a newspaper in this case? The truth is that they began to publish more pictures, became more modern, and began handing out gifts to attract readers. And what were they? They were things that have nothing to do with journalism. They are supposed to sell their content, not to look like super-markets that offer bicycles, automobiles. Even music CDs and DVDs, and books are not the face of the newspaper. I mean that newspapers sold anything else but not journalistic content in all these years. They invested to improve their appearance, but unfortunately did not make any investment in content, i.e. they did not invest in people. They, however, are those who write the texts and it is difficult for them to do their job well when working under uncertain conditions. 

Then, free publications appeared. The newspapers did not accept the message again because did not consider them dangerous. But won’t a society in which only 63 out of 1000 citizens buy newspaper every day turn to free newspapers when they are offered? Even if their price is just one euro.

And after the emergence of the Internet, which now develops and "absorbs" all these media, the situation for newspapers is quite complicated.

Tags: Economic crisisMediaNewspapersCirculationTelevisionsRadio stationsJournalistsCommercials
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