Monday, 21 March 2011

Wikileaks: Understanding who runs Greece

Kathimerini is publishing a load of Wikileaks documents (see here [click Διαβάστε αναλυτικά for original documents in English] and here) that relate to Cyprus and Greece. Mostly the documents report conversations between US diplomats in Athens and Nicosia with local political figures and reflections by these diplomats on how machinations in Cyprus and Greece will affect US interests. There are a number of interesting documents – Pangalos’ view that the Skopjans should be able to call themselves whatever they want; Cypriot distrust of Dora Bakoyiannis (well founded, it seems, since Bakoyiannis is recorded as telling the Americans post-Annan to work only for cosmetic changes to the UN plan); Molyviatis’ exasperation at the hardline Papadopoulos is taking on Turkey’s EU accession start – but the one I’m publishing an extract from below concerns a 2006 US analysis of how the Greek media works, in fact how Greek society works, because it mentions Christos Lambrakis and follows on from my last post about the man identified as being intimately involved with the junta and the Cyprus disaster. (Read document in full here).

SUBJECT: HOW TO READ THE GREEK PRESS: A GUIDE FOR THE UNINITIATED

1. SUMMARY. At first glance, the Greek media may resemble the media in the U.S., with a mixture of broadsheets and tabloids, national and local television and radio stations, and constitutional guarantees guarding the freedom of the press. Closer inspection reveals a Greek media industry controlled by business tycoons whose other successful businesses enable them to subsidize their loss-making media operations. These media operations in turn enable them to exercise political and economic influence. The result is that the media often provides an image of national and international events that is almost uniform but for its division along party lines. Similarly, a uniform anti-Americanism is injected into nearly every issue, but has little effect on the bilateral relationship. END SUMMARY.

The History of the Greek Media, from Homer to the Home Page
2. Homer reported on the Trojan War a few hundred years after it happened, and used the facts of the war to create a poetic tale of battles among gods, with men as pawns. Current Greek media uses the same blend of fact and fiction, with an equally judicious dose of deus ex machina (outside forces) that controls events. The first modern day Greek-language newspapers were established in Vienna and Paris in the 18th century and were an important factor in the Greek fight for independence from the Ottomans. With the founding of the modern Greek state, the tradition was established of blaming an outside power (first the Great Powers and then the U.S.) for all ills that befell Greece.

3. Greece currently has about 160 newspapers, 180 television stations, 800 radio stations, 3,500 magazines, and just 10 million people. (Portugal, with the same population, has 35 newspapers, 62 television stations, and 221 radio stations, according to the “World Factbook” of 2004). How can all these media outlets operate profitably? They don’t. They are subsidized by their owners who, while they would welcome any income from media sales, use the media primarily to exercise political and economic influence, and therefore care marginally less about turning a profit from their media operations. Because there are no subscriptions or home deliveries in Greece, newspapers have to sell themselves from newsstands by grabbing the attention of the casual passerby. This means that even the occasional calm and partially accurate story will have a misleading or untrue headline that often has nothing to do with the story. Still, the media utilize sensationalist headlines and stories to capture readers and the all-important television ratings that determine the distribution of advertising revenue. Newspapers also use such tools as DVD and book giveaways.

4. The same media companies that own newspapers and broadcasting stations have established internet news portals, but they have not taken off. The most popular, in.gr, has abolished its news desk and just runs articles from its parent company´s newspapers. There are no “Salons” or “Drudge Reports.”

Who Watches/Reads What?
5. Greeks get most of their information from television, but newspapers are the main source of analysis. Morning “news” shows consist of an oral recitation of those same, deliberately sensationalist newspaper headlines. Athens media dominate nationally, with 80 percent of the nation’s viewership and readership, and with provincial radio stations rebroadcasting Athens radio programs. The state-owned radio and television stations have a smaller audience than their private counterparts. Only 6 percent of Greeks get their news from the internet. While the public’s trust in the media has been steadily falling over the last two decades, it’s still quite common to hear “but I read it in the paper” or “I saw it on television” when we try to correct false news stories. An October 2005 poll showed that 71 percent of Greeks consider the media too sensationalist, yet the sensationalist newspapers generally sell the most copies.

6. A Greek political columnist described the situation as a moussaka with many layers baked together. The Greek public, he said, doesn’t pay attention to the media. The public opinion polls, however, reflect high levels of anti-Americanism (or, as he pointed out, anti-government or anti-establishment or anti-anything sentiments), because people like to vent their frustrations. Once you dig little deeper into the moussaka, he continued, you will find that the public is generally content with the decisions the government makes, even those where Greece and the U.S. are allied.

7. The Greek media increasingly devote more column inches and minutes to the daily problems of the average Greek, the private lives of politicians, entertainment, and sports than to foreign issues. Greece´s membership in the U.N. Security Council has received limited coverage, while analysis of European Union decisions is scarce. Major international events get extensive coverage but only via international networks and wire services. The reasons for the sparse coverage of major global developments include Greek ethnocentricity, the unwillingness of media owners to promote the current government´s achievements, and the lack of robust Greek leadership in the international arena.

Who are the Media?
8. The private media outlets in Athens are owned by a small group of people who have made or inherited fortunes in shipping, banking, telecommunications, sports, oil, insurance, etc. and who are or have been related by blood, marriage, or adultery to political and government officials and/or other media and business magnates. For example, ship-owner and Mega Channel investor Vardis Vardinogiannis is the best friend of Christos Lambrakis, publisher of “To Vima,” “Ta Nea,” “Athens News,” and the “in.gr” news portal, and Lambrakis has government construction contracts. Vardinoyannis’s two children married into the Goulandris and Nomikos ship-owning families. His sister Eleni is married to ND MP Yannis Kefaloyannis who serves as special advisor to PM Karamanlis.

9. The Greek term “interwoven interests” refers specifically and exclusively to the web of relationships among the media, business, and government. The current Minister of the Merchant Marine commented recently that the government is a puppet that performs at the whim of the interwoven interests. (His comment amused neither the press magnates nor the Prime Minister, but he has somehow held onto his job.) The relationships are more complicated and incestuous than those among the gods, the demigods, and the human beings of Greek myth. (Note: post can email a simplified one-page chart on the media and their ownership to anyone who would like to have it.)

10. As for the journalists themselves, they are an underpaid bunch usually holding multiple jobs in order to pay their bills. It’s not unusual for a journalist to work in a ministry press office, even while covering the beat that includes that ministry. They’re very conscious of their multiple masters. One long-time Mega Channel reporter says she only recalls one instance where any of Mega’s five owners was criticized on that station. It’s also acceptable for journalists to take gifts or even money from those on whom they report. The 2004 Olympics organizing committee was notorious for paying journalists for favorable stories.

9 comments:

Hermes said...

Although this analysis is relatively accurate what makes Greece different than most liberal democracies, apart from countries mostly in Scandinavia which have strong media laws. One could say the same about the US media and the interwoven interests amongst Jewish media magnates and entrepreneurs, the military industrial complex and big oil. By the way there are Drudge Report-type blogs and internet news sources in Greece.

lastgreek said...

Speaking of the US media, did you guys catch the latest freaky mouthing of right-wing columnist Ann Coulter?

"Radiation is good for you."

Only in an idiocracy such as the US can you get on national tv and say something as asinine as that.

Btw, she means the ionizing kind ... lol

Here's the hilarious 4 min. youtube clip. Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rci3ElYLs4U

John Akritas said...

It's definitely true, H, that all other western countries have these interwoven interests; but, for some reason, in Greece, the locals let the 'big shots' get away with it. Lambrakis and so on are lionised, regarded as local heroes rather than big crooks. And, of course, it is the Lambrakides who have screwed up Greece; but I don't see Theodorakis (for example) blaming them for Greece's predicament. Instead, they blame Zionism and global Jewish finance, while our own gangsters and fraudsters are let off. In the countries we live in, the Murdochs, the Trumps and so on are scrutinised by all and sundry and are held up as hate figures; in Greece, they cheat and steal and still expect to have their backsides kiss, and more often than not do. For all the socialism Greece has been exposed to these last 30 years, I still find the place far too deferential to those in power or with money and so on.

Hermes said...

John, actually the Theodorakis crowd (including Karabelias) always blames the big businessmen along with Zionists. As for other liberal democracies, in Australia a former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was effectively dumped by a cabal of large mining companies and News Corp. Also, in regards to ministerial staff being on the payroll of media companies, the situation in Greece is just more coarse. In places like the UK, the US and Australia, those ministerial staffers are promised jobs and other perks once they leave the ministry which is really the same as Greece but just a little more subtle.

By the way, I am not sure if you read Spengler (David Goldman), a rabid Zionist for sure but now against Turkey, but his latest on Turkey is very good:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MC23Ak01.html

Anonymous said...

Plutocracy.

lastgreek said...

Plutocracy

Yes, that's the problem in Greece . . . and everywhere else basically.

John Akritas said...

It is plutocracy; but what I don't get is why so-called Greek radicals instead of occupying and trashing Mega and Ta Nea, trash their universities and petrol bomb the police. Over here, there's an ongoing campaign against big business not paying taxes, and this involves picketing and occupying banks, Top Shop and so on to make their point. I would, by the way, love to see the Greek government send out tax inspectors to the Lambrakis Press Group and see how these crooks have been defrauding the Greek state for years, rather than picking on those renting out a couple of rooms on the islands in the summer.

lastgreek said...

It is plutocracy; but what I don't get is why so-called Greek radicals instead of occupying and trashing Mega and Ta Nea, trash their universities and petrol bomb the police.

Yes, it's almost like some kind of masochistic ritual. What's next for the radicals---the actual cutting off of their Greek noses to spite their faces? I look forward to that one.

Over here, there's an ongoing campaign against big business not paying taxes, and this involves picketing and occupying banks.

Let's have x stand for big business, y stand for government, and z stand for fascism.

Definition of fascism: the merger of state and corporate power.

Therefore . . .

z = x + y

Let's give a real-world example of the above relationship. One of the largest corporations on planet earth General Electric had fiscal 2010 world profits of just over $14billion, 40% of that came from operations in the United States. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that John Akritas---yes, you, J---will pay more in taxes for year 2010 than GE paid in the U.S. Now unless J here is one of the richest persons on planet earth that's quite an amazing fact. How am I so sure J paid more? Well, it's just been published that GE's American tax bill for 2010 was ... none! But wait---there's more amazing stuff. "Destitute" GE managed to also claim a tax benefit of $3.2 bilion!

Of course, I could have easily have chosen a Greek example. Anyway, it kinda makes you wonder if World War II was all for naught, doesn't it?

Auf wiedersehen.

John Akritas said...

You are right, LG, it is a ritual. It is funny that Greeks have developed this image of themselves as being rebellious and anti-authoritarian; but which, at the moment, is just an excuse for anti-socialness and selfishness.