The decision to scrap MEGA from the selection process in the final stage of a tender for four national television licenses in Greece leaves just seven contenders from the eleven that had initially shown interest.
It’s hard to tell whether the new TV license laws, narrowing the media landscape to four private channels, will manage to clear the debt-ridden media landscape bristling with corruption and clientelism or just lead to further heartbreak and unemployment for the employees who work at media corporations to be rejected in the last stage of the selection process from August 12 to August 17.
The goal is to increase the quality of viewing programs by decreasing the number of media organizations influenced by the business moguls who own them and the political elite who control editorial choices. One example of this is manifested in the way that the media has kept silent on the hardships suffered by the middle and lower classes during the economic crisis while favorably looking on austerity measures. After all, media owners have largely benefitted from the cutbacks to employee rights and pensions.
The employees themselves back their bosses as they are fully aware that streamlining the TV landscape would lead to further job cuts and more salary slashes as unemployed journalists compete for the few remaining positions available in a field where the market price for a university-educated rookie journalist is currently at 560 euros (not to mention unpaid overtime) and where it is not unusual to see 20+ years experienced reporters working at 800 euros per month.
As salaries drop so does the quality of the media output, filled with gossip, sensationalist material and copy-paste news.
Mega’s Swan Song
Unpaid MEGA workers gave a recital in independent journalism over the weekend during their reportage of the attempted military coup in Turkey. The optimism was short-lived, however, as the five-member committee in charge of the tender for private licenses found that the application for the large channel, once the highest in ratings, was incomplete as far as its financial records were concerned.
MEGA has faced numerous difficulties in recent months leaving workers unpaid and failing to meet other debt obligations to banks (estimated bank loans at 116 million euros). MEGA’s woes were brought to the fore in May when last-ditch efforts to save it from bankruptcy were reached in an agreement between shareholders at the eleventh hour as they reportedly agreed to put up three million euros in a week to cover outstanding debts, including money owed to the company’s employees (still unpaid in July).
Cypriot-based Dimera Media Investments Limited, owned by PAOK Club shareholder Ivan Savvidis, was rejected due to auditing problems in the documentation of the company’s economic situation for 2015. ITV CP was also rejected due to missing legal documentation required for participation in the process to be deemed valid.
Last week, George Karatzaferis’ private TV station, ART (City) was excluded from joining in the tender as his submission file did not have the required 30,000-euro stamp in accordance with Law 4339/2015 and 1/2016. Once the leader of the liberal conservative Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Karatzaferis often broadcast through his relatively minor private TV channel Teleasty (formerly Telecity).
Who is left?
The seven contenders still in the running are:
1.Skai S. A.
3.ANTENNA TV S.A.
4.Alpha Satellite TV S.A.
5.Ioannis-Vladimiris H. Kalogritsas Television
7.Epsilon TV, Radiotileoptiki S.A.
8.Independent Television Content Provider S.A.