The perception of the media as the fourth power is not at all new. Like their relationship with the government. According to the secret telegrams that leaked into Wikileaks, the Greek media are synonymous with corruption, their journalists are poorly paid, and the published information - soaked from bias and anti-Americanism.
"Incestuous like the relationships of the Greek gods" – that is how the former U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Rhys defined the relationship between the owners of the Greek media, the politicians and the government. The text is part of a telegram on corruption in the Greek media and its implications for the US policy he sent to the US State Department in July 2006.
According to the US diplomat, "the Greek media are controlled by a small group of people who have created or inherited their property through companies in the field of maritime transport, communications, banking, oil and others. They are connected through arranged matches or marriages for politicians and government functionaries and/or other major businessmen." Charles Rhys believes that the mass media in Greece are managed by tycoons who can afford to fund their loss-making enterprises in the media as result of the successful operation of their other companies" to "exercise political and economic influence."
According to the former Ambassador, the Greek media in turn often present an almost identical picture with the only difference in party lines. "Similarly, an identical anti-Americanism is added to almost every subject, which, however, has insignificant influence on the bilateral relations."
"The Greek term "corrupt" means exactly the network of interconnected interests between the media, the businesses and the government," adds Rhys Charles. "The connections (between them) are more complex and "incestuous" from the relations between gods, demigods and humans in Greek mythology."
As for the journalists, he writes that "they are poorly paid and often work in several media to be able to pay their bills. It is not uncommon for a journalist to work in the ministerial press service, although the reports of the specific department are in his portfolio. They are fully aware of the many chiefs they have (...) It is also common for journalists to receive gifts, even money from people who are related to the reports they make. It is known that the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games Athens 2004 was paying journalists to write positive reports."
The US diplomat presents the history of the Greek media from Homer to the Age of the Internet. "Homer has made a "report" about the Trojan War a few years after its implementation and used the events to create a poetic epic of battles between the gods in which people were pawns. Today’s Greek media use the same "mixture" of events and fantasy with an equal dose of "Deus ex machina", i.e. external forces that control the events."
Charles Rhys notes in his telegram that some media owners in Greece have "oil connections" with the Middle East, and others have ideological or financial reasons to resist globalization. "Today, as in the 800 year BC the Greek public opinion is flooded with myths, scapegoats and conspiracy theories in which the USA is presented as a "Planetary Leader" responsible for the internal problems of Greece and the decline of its charm on the international arena."
According to the former Ambassador, "if the Greek media owners choose to radically change their position (...) we could report a progressive reduction of sentimental anti-Americanism, which is typical of the media and a turn to more objective and based on event reports. The good news is that our relationship with the Greek government remains strong, despite the efforts of the media. In this way, the Greek public opinion feels comfortable to express its anger against the US foreign policy, while admiring many of the traits of the American culture. "
Not many Greeks were surprised by the contents of the telegram. Suspected relations between the media tycoons with the power, the uncontrolled granting of permits for television and radio stations and the publication of "revelations" about one or another politician in order to cancel their obligations or to exercise political pressure are commonly used.
At the same time, one of the central Greek televisions is only a step away from the closure. TV ALTERA stopped live broadcasts on Monday and it is not clear whether this is due to the strike of the 160 technicians or to management’s decision. Half of the bank accounts of the media were blocked a few months ago because of unpaid debts to the state and the employees have not received salaries for more than 3 months. According to some sources, a large telecommunication company is interested in buying the media. That will happen only if the audit results of the English financial house Argo are positive and it gives "green light" to the investment.
With the threatened closure and a large number of publications which have so far been passed by the state press releases. In conditions of severe economic crisis, however, it was impossible to continue. Instead of newspaper publications already placed in the web pages at no cost to the state budget. The disruption of this source of funds suffered most provincial newspapers.
Experts say they could benefit from the new territorial division of Greece to unite with each other at the district level which will provide greater audience. They advise the publications to seek reasons for its social role similar to those that were recognized in a number of European countries like France, Holland and Sweden where there are systems for state funding of the press in the province.
According to some publications publishers of these journals have already taken steps in this direction, but above all must endeavor to break the "vicious" links to specific interests.