Never before have the Greek media talked so much about the foreign media. French newspapers such as La Tribune or the German Die Zeit – which are seldom mentioned otherwise – have made the headlines. International news has suddenly become attractive because it talks about Greece. Some commentators are mildly critical of this; others turn prophet. But all focus on the Brussels angle: what is the connection between Angela Merkel’s problems at home and her attitude towards Athens? How many more austerity measures will the European Commission insist on? Serious analysis runs alongside images such as the “Victory of Samothrace as a beggar” (1). The general tone is one of resignation.
Greece’s five private TV channels have assumed the role of the opposition. They supported farmers who put up roadblocks demanding more subsidies, a movement that lost its nerve as soon as the cameras went home. Now they give the floor mostly to the ruling party, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement), whose discontent with current politics has led it to appeal publicly to its own leader, George Papandreou, to adopt less austere measures (2). The channels also add the voices of the Communist Party and the reformist Coalition of the Radical Left, which have only recently converted to anti-neoliberal dogmas (3). And Antonis Samaras, the newly elected leader of the main opposition party New Democracy, has been very discreet about the part played by his party in the enormous current budget deficits.
Journalists, far from initiating a public debate about possible ways out of the crisis, are contributing to the fear and confusion – which they then exploit to generate further news reports.
Public radio and television have other concerns. They are trying to extricate themselves from a disastrous situation created by New Democracy and made even worse by the current government. Extraordinarily high salaries and bonuses of up to $400,000 a year are paid to advisers and directors, while 50 “special” posts offer selected journalists golden contracts and salaries of $200,000. Nor are the large-circulation newspapers safe. They are in severe difficulties and risk falling prey to profiteering “investors”.
(1) Greek sculpture from the 3rd-4th century BC representing a winged woman as the symbol of victory.
(2) See Niels Kadritze, “Greece won’t go bankrupt”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, February 2010.
(3) See Valia Kaimaki, “Mass uprising of Greece’s youth”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, January 2009.