Democracy, particularly our modern liberal one, has absolute need for a strong and independent press. This seems obvious to most educated or politically conscious Westerners but its a reality which too many tend to forget. Yet, in our liberal societies, press organisations, media in general, have become before all corporations. It has always been like this, to an extent, but a phenomenon had made this particularly acute. In the old times (let's say before the two World Wars), newspapers were the only independent press available. Radio and later television were always public entities controlled by the governments. Even then, press independence was relative: newspapers had shareholders and owners who expected them to make some money.
By Jean-Baptiste Perrin

Although it is clear to most historians that newspaper owner, at the time, had another preoccupation. Newspapers were never great money makers: they were paid for by subscriptions or sold in kiosks and news shops. This was generally allowing to break even or to make a small profit. But the true motivation of shareholders was generally political and civic. They saw as their duty to inform their fellow citizens on whatever was happening, present opinions of "enlightened" intellectuals (think Emile Zola and his "J'accuse" famous editorial in France during the Dreyfus scandal in 1898) and generally act as some kind of additional check and balance for the government. Of course, this hardly made the press independent, but the multiplicity of titles ensured a reasonable competition for political and media space. What changed was the introduction of publicity. Suddenly, the press (and later private radio and television channels) had a major stream of revenues coming to support the main titles and their shareholders. Later, during the 70's and 80's, TV and radio channels were privatised, entirely or partially. The unavoidable result, in many countries, was first an explosion of freedom and in the number of media outlets, followed in the 90's and 2000 by a massive concentration in the sector, driven by ratings and profits.

In Greece, of course, things were a bit different. It wasn't until the end of the junta (1974) that the media landscape started to be liberalized. Thus, the country directly passed from centralized governmental monopoly on information to the press tycoon era, without going through the freedom explosion phase. The results can be deceiving: there is a flurry of debate and opposed views, at a first glance. But the reality of information shaping and "serving" to the public is concentrated into the hands of very few actual people. Here, one has to go a bit beyond the surface and further than the rants of Antonis Giorgiadis or ex-Metaxas supporter Plevris on Blue/Sky or the policed debate on Alpha. All TV and radio channels and all newspapers actually belong to the same people, or rather the same group of people. Here follow some examples.
  • To Ethnos: Pegasus Network (which also owns, amongst others, the economic newspaper Imersia) is owned by the Bobolas family.
  • Ta Nea: DOL, owned by the Psycharis family.
  • To Vima: DOL.
  • Vima Radio: DOL.
  • I Kathimerini : Alafouzos family (shipping tycoons).
  • Skai TV and Radio: Alafouzos family.
  • Red FM: Alafouzos family. 
  • Blue Sky TV: Kissandrakis.
  • Antenna TV stations: Kyriakou family.
  • M. TV: Kyriakou family.
  • Alfa TV: Kontominas family.
  • Channel 9: Kontominas family.
  • Star TV: Vardinogiannis family (Motor Oil Hellas, amongst other major companies).
  • Athens Radio DeeJay, Rock, Soho and Diesi FM Radios: Vardinogiannis family.
  • MAD TV: Kouri family.
  • Kontra TV: Kouri family
  • To Paron newspaper: Kouri family.
  • Mega TV (Greek biggest channel): owned by DOL and by the Bobolas family, Vardinogiannis family and Tegopoulou family
It is completely irrelevant to know which owner owns which opinion paper or channel. Since these are mostly main shareholders and since most families have cross participations in other families businesses (Mega TV being the prime example), all the political spectrum is covered, at the noticeable exception of the extremes. In general, the Greek opinion making media is controled by a grand total of 9 families and a couple more individuals. And it would be a mistake to think that they do not intervene in the content of these media. Editors have learned to fear them and self-censor if necessary. 

For instance, when the LuxLeaks scandal blew into the public sphere, its whistleblowers looked for partnerships in different countries to publish the juicy bits and files corresponding to each country. In Greece, Ta Nea was one of the chosen media. Yet, according to the LuxLeaks site for Greece, it decided to not name most of the companies involved in the scandal. The same happened with the Lagarde list: the journalist who decided to publish it had to hide the fact from his own printer, because it was owned by the Bobolas family. 

But the best part of all this is that few of these channels are even making any money to their owners. They are mostly loss making assets, at least if you look superficially (they are globally in debts for about 2 billion EUR). However, they survive with subsidies from their holding owners. This is of course because they are actually used as press offices for these massive conglomerates (some of them operating way beyond Greek borders). They are influence brokers and they pressure politicians (often coming from their own ranks) to allocate contracts to their parent companies. They are essentially deal makers, not information channels. Greeks must know that no independant news can come from them and foreign institutions must learn to find relevant and unbiased information about Greece outside od this dubious influence.

Obviously, the public media sector, ERT, should not be forgotten. But since its demise, replacement and promised relaunch, such as a phoenix rising from its own ashes, there has been already a lot of noise made about it and it falls outside the scope of this quick review of Greek media. This said, its use by successive parties in power to place crony friends and clientele makes it an even more unlikely place to find unbiased relevant information...

Sources: Financial Times; Business Insider; Wikipedia; Reuters; Mediapart, LuxLeaks.

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