Daily Management Review

Greek broadcasters: Our media freedom is in danger


Greek broadcasters have opposed a bill on establishment of the state agency for the sale of television advertising. The document is a front-office decision proposed by the country’s government. The broadcasting companies believe that this would become not only an interference in activities of the advertising and television market, but also the government’s lever of pressure on media.

Gerard Eviston via flickr
Gerard Eviston via flickr
Greek government is planning to create a state agency for sale of television advertising. The initiative has already met numerous protests from broadcasters. This was reported by the British newspaper Financial Times. A week ago, the State Minister Nikos Pappas has introduced a bill, which envisages creation of a monopolist sales agency for placement of advertising ordered by commercial broadcasters. According to Mr. Pappas, the purpose of creating such an agency is to increase transparency of the advertising industry, to limit tax evasion and to protect minors. Already now, the country’s government levies a 20 percent tax on all transactions between broadcasters and advertising agencies. Under the new law, the state-paid amount will increase to 30% of the transaction amount. TV advertising market in Greece reached € 200 million a year, it is more than a third of all the Greek advertising market (€ 570 million).

According to the broadcasting companies, the creation of such an agency could threaten the industry’s future. On Friday, the country's largest TV companies published a collective letter. The document expresses their concern that the government could use the new law to increase state control over the media. The letter calls the bill "unreasonable and unprecedented government intervention in activities of the advertising and television markets." According to the five largest private broadcasters - Antenna, Mega TV, Skai Group, Alpha and Channel E - the new law would also prevent preservation of confidentiality in dealings with advertising agencies and commercial partners. In addition, in their view, the law violates EU legislation and is generally harmful to the television industry. The latter is already experiencing an economic downturn due to the austerity measures and increasing shift towards Internet advertising. 

"We are shocked and puzzled. How can the government try to stifle the industry, which is already lost 50% of its revenue in recent years? This is not about transparency, or the improvement of economic performance industry, it seems to me, it's about control ", - the Financial Times quotes top manager of one of the Greek TV stations. Various Greek associations of TV advertisers also joined the appeal. The letter’s authors are asking the government to withdraw the bill and to seek a solution acceptable to both sides. 

Last Thursday, the country’s government also launched an auction for a limited number of new licenses for private television. This procedure has been initiated in circumvention of the Greek Council for Broadcasting, the state media regulator. This has also caused a heated debate since only four licenses put up for the auction will lead to closure of at least three private TV channels. 

source: ft.com