Greece: Move to regulate broadcast market draws objection


As the Greek government prepares to open a public consultation on the tender for new broadcast licenses, the country’s private TV owners have escalated their criticisms of a controversial new media law passed on 11 February.

The law aims to regulate the country’s media market and includes a competitive bidding process for limited private broadcast licenses. Nikos Pappas, the minister responsible for its implementation, announcedat a Syriza party meeting on 23 March his intention to launch the open international bid after the public consultation.

The changes will not affect the country’s public broadcaster ERT.

Panos Kyriakopoulos, president of the Association of Private TV Stations of National Range (EITISEE), criticised the government’s move, pointing out that the industry group was only invited to discuss the proposed legislation late in the process, when the draft bill had already been approved by a parliament committee. He added that EITISEE would appeal to the Greek Council of State and has already contacted the relevant EU agencies.

While broadcast television licensing has not been harmonised at an EU level, the changes to the Greek broadcast regime are being driven by the financial bailout. Under the rescue package, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed that Greece had committed to launch an international tender for broadcasting licenses.

From the Syriza-led government’s point of view, the new licensing process will bring order to broadcasting environment and fight corruption. Political opponents see the licensing regime as an attempt to take full control over the country’s media.

“We want financially viable media, because if this is not the case, they end up with financial holes and large loans, putting pressure on the political system to intervene in banks,” said Pappas.

Kyriakopoulos claims that whatever is being said about EITISEE member’s finances is “lies”.

“Our members do not have a euro of arrears to the state budget, the social security funds and the banks,” Kyriakopoulos told Index on Censorship. “Moreover, no loan does belong to the category of red loans.”

However, not everyone agrees with Kyriakopoulos.

“In our country the private TV channels have dominated the media environment for 25 years without ever having been given licenses and under a provisional legal status. Regulation is not only necessary but it’s a precondition for the smooth functioning of the market,” said Matina Papachristoudi, a journalist with the magazines Digital TV Info and Hot Doc, and a blogger at

For its part, EITISEE said that after the transition from analog to the digital age, the licensing framework has changed as in other European countries. “The TV channels do not have frequencies anymore,” Kyriakopoulos said. “It’s the network provider which has been given the frequencies, and this is Digea, following an international tender.”

According to Papachristoudi, non-authorised stations are “clients” of Digea, a digital network operator.

The main fight between the government and the Greek private TV is over the number of licences to be sold. Currently, eight national TV channels are operating in Greece. The new law allows for only four. Based on research from the University Institute of Florence, the government maintains that only four channels are viable.

“This is unprecedented for a democratic state where the open market is established,” Kyriakopoulos said. “The government cannot impose how many licences will be allowed within a sector, based on a revenue approach; the open market regulates this.”

“The issue will be judged in the supreme court, to which the channel owners will appeal,” Papachristoudi said. “Personally, I think it is not a restriction on freedom of expression, but an attempt to control the broadcasting landscape under new conditions.”

Most controversially, the government has decided to conduct the international bidding process itself, rather than have the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV), Greece’s independent regulatory authority, run the tender. NCRTV is designated by the Greek constitution as the body responsible for such a process.

Kyriakopoulos said this “abolishes the independence of the press” and accused the government of creating a “kind of oligopoly with few stations”, which are easily “manageable” and “better controlled … either through the distribution of state advertising or by threatening to pull their licences, if they do not obey the requirements imposed”.

The government opted to oversee the process due to a deadlock with the major opposition party in parliament over the appointment of NCRTV board members. The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, accused the dominant opposition party of wanting to “cancel the contest”.

“Mr. Mitsotakis is a hostage to the various interests and the TV contractors and denies the consensual establishment of the NCRTV,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “His aim is to cancel the contest, and those who had for so many years a free use of public frequencies, not to pay anything.”

Mapping Media Freedom

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Mapping Media Freedom: Week in focus

Each week, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project verifies threats, violations and limitations faced by the media throughout the European Union and neighbouring countries. Here are just five reports from 9-16 February that give us cause for concern.

1. Ireland: Reporters receive death threats amid Dublin’s gangland feud

It was reported on 11 February that a number of journalists have been threatened by criminal gangs in Dublin stemming from their reporting of a current gangland feud in the city that saw two murders in the space of four days earlier this month. Police informed Independent News and Media, which owns the Irish Independent newspaper, that the safety of two reporters — a man and a woman — was at risk.

Irish secretary for the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley said he was “gravely concerned” by the threats. “Journalists and media organisations will not be intimidated by such threats, which have no place in a democratic society,” he said.

The death threats come almost 20 years after the high-profile murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, who dared to investigate organised crime in Dublin. “Successive governments have let down the memory of Veronica … by failing to provide the resources required to beat the gangs,” said Jimmy Guerin, brother of Veronica.

2. Romania: Journalist faces campaign of cyberbullying and online threats

Boróka Parászka, an ethnic Hungarian publicist and editor working at the public radio in Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureş area, has become the victim of cyberbullying and online abuse. On 10 February, an online petition was published entitled We Are Sick and Tired of Parászka, which appealed to media outlets not to publish or broadcast any of the journalist’s “left-liberal” work. It claims her pieces are “subversive” (felforgató), that she aggressively attacks everything “Hungarian” and she “undermines the community interests”.

In the wake of the petition, derogatory messages were sent to Parászka via Facebook, including anti-Semitic slurs, sexual comments and threats of violence.

On the day the petition went live, the Hungarian Journalist’s Association of Romania issued a reminder that the Romanian constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression, provisions that need to be emphasised when it comes to journalists.

3. Romania: Draft defamation law passes first vote

A draft defamation law has passed a legal committee vote in Romania. If adopted, those found guilty of defamation could be fined up to RON 100,000 (€22,000). The law would be equally applicable to reports in the media as to messages posted on Facebook.

Liviu Dragnea, leader of the Social Democratic Party, the largest party in the Romanian parliament, said a Department for Promoting Human Dignity and Tolerance will be established to prevent and penalise defamation, defined as “the act or statement by which a person is put in a position of inferiority on the grounds of belonging to a social group”.

Some Romanian journalists have criticised the draft law as a means to protect politicians from criticism. “This law aims to protect the politicians from being criticised for their actions,” TV producer Radu Banciu said. “In the name of defending tolerance of group differences, they just want to control not only the mass media but also Facebook and other social media.”

4. Greece: New media law limits national TV channels

Controversial new legislation regarding TV channels was passed in the Greek Parliament late on 11 February in a narrow vote. While there are currently seven national TV stations, the new law will allow licences for just four.

The law has angered many. “You are choosing the path of authoritarian practices, which alienate the country from the European principles of justice,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told MPs. The Association of Private TV Channels (EITISEE) has also accused the government of performing a “sleight of hand” by basing its decision to launch a tender for just four TV licenses on a study that contains calculations that are incorrect.

5. Turkey: Molotov cocktails thrown and shots fired at newspaper headquarters

On 11 February, a group of 3-4 masked assailants opened fire and threw molotov cocktails at the headquarters of newspapers Yeni Safak and Yeni Akit, in Istanbul.

While there were no casualties, a fire broke out in front of the building and some vehicles were damaged. Firefighters rushed to the scene as police cordoned off the area. Tight security measures were put in place around the building.

The United States Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, and his German counterpart Martin Erdmann have condemned the attack. “No violence against journalists is acceptable. Free and polyphonic press is essential to a democratic society,” said Bass.

This article was originally published on Index on Censorship.

Mapping Media Freedom

Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at