The Greek media will fall into silence for four days. Today, kiosks sell Sunday newspapers, and the information flow stops until 6 o’clock on Monday morning.
Newspapers, magazines, TV stations, press distribution agencies, the national news agency ANA, and state funded media take part in two 48-hour strikes announced by the coordination committee of the trade unions of media workers.
According to the statements, media employees strike "against the mass layoffs of workers and union representatives from newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations, which have become frequent in recent days and took the form of persecution, threats and terrorism."
The main demands of the strikers are: signing satisfactory collective agreements, no further reduction of salaries, guarantees for keeping the acquired professional benefits and that there will be no redundancies.
The involvement of news sites employees was not clear to the last, because the Union of Journalists refused to accept those journalists who work there as members. Yesterday, the governing body of the Union called them to take part in the strike. Some of them have responded positively, but only on condition that all sites will take part. But because such an agreement has not been reached it seems that some news sites will not deprive their readers from the opportunity to have access to everything that happens in the country and the world. This does not apply to the Internet editions of the central newspapers, the staff of which will participate in the strike.
The four-day strike, which began a few hours ago, is the biggest strike in more than 30 years. The last lengthy strike of journalists was held back in 1975. Greece was left with no newspapers in 1980 too, because of the printers’ strike. Both strikes lasted 15-20 days. Since then, media employees held two strikes at most annually, lasting no longer than two days.
An article in Vima describes the strike in 1975 as an expression of the euphoria following the fall of the junta. The employees fought for wage increases, better working conditions, more freedom. The publishers were forced to retreat and actually accepted all demands. Today’s frame of journalistic work has been established in that period of enthusiasm. Since then, only improvements have followed, introduced primarily through collective bargaining held by the Union of Journalists in Athens.
According to the same publication, the printers' strike was against the technological change. The powerful guild managed by a few families did not allow the introduction of the new technology for printing newspapers. The publishers could not give up their claim, and after the strike that lasted 20 days, the state paid the cost of early retirement and compensation of the printers. So, the well paid and frowning printers were replaced by the poorly paid "photo editing girls."
All have been going well over the past 35 years: the number of newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations has increased from 1975 to 2010. Even today, Greece has the largest number of media across Europe. Currently in Athens are being published 16 dailies, 5 economic and 12 sports newspapers. A total of 34 central editions and 18 more newspapers are being published in various cities in the country.
For comparison, the German federal state of Baden - Wuerttemberg, the population of which is equal in number to the Greek, a total of 40 newspapers are being published and several TVs are being broadcasted. The author hardly believes that there are so many media in the 80-million Germany as in the 12-million Greece. At the same time, the Germans are buying three times more newspapers than the Greeks. The conclusion of the author is merciless: We not only have the highest number of newspapers, but least readers across Europe, which means that there are many people writing in Greece, but their readers are few.
The author of the article answers very accurately the logical question of how all these media have survived: Notwithstanding the blackmailing, the black and political money and other illegal means, at least half of the Athenian newspapers and 90% of the editions inside the country survive thanks to the mandatory publication of the companies’ financial balance sheets, the court and administrative decisions and the selective allocation of state advertising. And all this without real journalists who are being replaced every six months with new ones appointed as trainees. The radio stations do work with computers that run the music and TVs show the same low-budget films.
As soon as the discussion about the repeal of mandatory publications began the Union of Journalists responded negatively, "not to be affected the insurance funds of the employees." But of the 40 million that companies pay for the publication of their balance sheets only about 8 million go into the insurance funds. At the same time, only 400 million of the 2-billion state advertising reached the funds in 2009, and the amount fell by 15% in 2010 because of cuts in advertising. The insurance funds of the media employees also receive 20% of the price of the advertisements published in the Athens and Thessaloniki editions, and from all TVs in Greece. This is the notorious "advertisement tax," which was imposed during the German occupation in 1941. In practice, it replaces the contributions of employers who pay a very small part of the contributions of media employees.