By Dimitris Bekiaris
There is no doubt that SYRIZA, from the time it entered a “winning” trajectory – about eight years ago – and, of course, when it finally took over the government of the country for more than four years, it had to face the unprecedented “firepower” that the Establishment and the corrupt entanglement of political, publishing, and business interests had in the media.
Even in 1981, when PASOK put an end to the 50-year-long domination of the Right in Greece, no such imbalance could be detected in terms of media power.
A great difference between the once-powerful political movement (PASOK) and the petty party (SYRIZA) that has so far failed to match its party base with its electoral base is that, for long periods of time, PASOK had been the reference point of the so-called “Democratic” or “Progressive” Press and was greatly supported by it. During the country’s post-junta political history, the two opposite sides have been clearly distinct. Today, however, the lack of pluralism in the Press and on television is not only tedious, but also poses a threat to Democracy. The scandal surrounding the distribution by Stelios Petsas of the state advertisement and the pandemic campaign is indicative of the attitude prevailing in the governmental structure of the State.
– Us, unlike others who are whining on the steps of the Maximos Mansion or others who were being chased by their employees due to their debts and today pretend to be friends of SYRIZA and keep whining, being unable to understand the terms of the war, we never accepted advertisements from banks, as we never received state advertisement, neither during the Samaras, nor during the Tsipras, nor, of course, during the Mitsotakis government. And mostly: We have never asked for state advertisement or advertisement from banks, neither now, nor then, nor ever-
And how does SYRIZA act? Sadly, it remains a passive observer of developments and, even worse, it completely refuses to modify and change its media strategy at any level.
Yes, the Establishment has fiercely fought and continues fighting SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras. Yes, there are no influential national television stations that support SYRIZA and Alexis Tsipras. Yes, apart from the “Efimerida ton Syntakton” (efsyn) , there is no serious political newspaper that can balance the situation concerning the public that still, well into the age of the internet, chooses the print media for their information.
And how do the “guns” of SYRIZA compare to the “tanks” of the Media “Junta” ? Well, let’s see:
Party newspapers, read only by the remnants of the so-called “SYRIZA of 4%”. Party websites without any impact or influence on the public beyond the “SYRIZA of 4%”. Party radio stations, with only a few SYRIZA supporters as their audience. On television, the only channel that supports the official opposition party is a local channel that succeeded “Channel 29”. In the Sunday Press, there is the “Documento” newspaper, which is undoubtedly revealing and militant, but in no way can it be considered a front-line political newspaper able to influence the country’s politics, chart a convincing strategy or determine the course of developments, as it stands against historical publications – even if some of them seem to have declined – such as newspapers of the former Lambrakis Press Group or the “Kathimerini”. SYRIZA even failed to create a pro-SYRIZA publication like “Proto Thema”.
So, how does SYRIZA deal with that problem? By creating the “SYRIZA TV”, only to be watched by those few who read the “Avgi” and the “Epochi” newspapers and listen to the “Sto Kokkino” radio station. Its whole parliamentary group aligns behind a newspaper on the subject of state advertisement, provoking reactions even within SYRIZA and the wider progressive alignment. It is impossible for some scattered efforts on the internet, with no strategic coordination, to confront the “regular army” of the government’s propaganda mechanism in the vast media field. These efforts do not receive proper help from SYRIZA and, thus, limit themselves to “guerrilla and attrition warfare”, which is doomed to fail.
What else is SYRIZA doing? Apart from the party media, top officials of the main opposition party, formerly powerful ministers of the SYRIZA government, are implementing personal strategies, making obscure background deals with TV station owners and “bribing” news directors with a spot on the ballot papers in order to keep themselves personally unharmed by media attacks; thus, they eventually create the perfect conditions for the undermining of Alexis Tsipras himself.
And what did SYRIZA do during its governance period? The answer is pretty much nothing. The responsibility for the failure of Alexis Tsipras’ party belongs to specific individuals. Individuals who had nothing to do with politics, individuals filled with arrogance, individuals who attempted to change the establishment in the media and yet managed to create an even more solid enemy front, an even more hostile environment for SYRIZA.
Small groups and groupuscules of party members did not hesitate to undermine even the media that supported SYRIZA, due to them “not being left-wing enough”. It seems far-fetched, but it is true.
The walls of Maximos Mansion are “haunted” by the cries of a former SYRIZA minister and other cries of certainty about the formation of a “new situation in the media” with Mr. Kalogritsas.
The apartments and offices on Syngrou Avenue have been haunted by the conversations and the comings and goings of various runners who were always contriving an “incredible” plan about the media.
The dreams of a former SYRIZA minister are haunted by the now broken agreements with shipowners and businessmen. The evidence is out there to remind some people how “the directives changed” overnight and the signal for deconstruction was given, or to remind them that they will always be hostages and easy targets of the “structured” interests.
The walls of the Ministry are haunted by the tears and the sorrows of a formerly powerful SYRIZA minister, from when he was “depressed” because for a while Alexis Tsipras had put him on “ice” due to his failure to control the situation in the media – not his failure to completely control the media, but to implement the government policy that he himself had proposed! – Of course, the former prime minister was right because his minister had exposed him. Alexis Tsipras, however, is a generous man, even with those who are proven to be toxic in the field of SYRIZA’s turbulent relationship with the media entrepreneurs, in other words, with TV station owners and publishers.
Telephone lines have been haunted by the requests of TV personalities that came out of nowhere, and who, together with former SYRIZA ministers, demanded “advertising” for newspapers that “supported SYRIZA”.
The same TV personalities, acting as runners of the new government, naively gave away the ministers whom they had a soft spot for, revealing, for example, the “business” of a former SYRIZA minister with a far-right media person, who was a vicious critic of the Tsipras government.
Telephone networks have been haunted by the accusations hurled at the night of the European Parliament elections by a former SYRIZA minister against two other ministers of the Tsipras government, especially against the one who, having seen the exit polls that night, was visibly embarrassed in a nationwide television broadcast.
The aforementioned are nothing but indicative examples. Whole volumes can be written on that matter.
And, finally, what is SYRIZA doing today? Nothing different from what it did in previous years. It denounces corruption and the executive state, it is provocatively annoyed by the advertising of certain media, it questions the validity of the polls (even though they turned out to be absolutely correct in the latest election battles); however, it does not take any initiative, indulges in no self-criticism and follows no actual strategy to reverse the displeasing and dangerous for our Democracy current media situation. SYRIZA, just as it fails to change as a party and expand its party base, so it fails and does not want to appeal to broader reading and television audiences, and internet users beyond the party’s “microcosm”.
Those in SYRIZA have chosen to stay amongst themselves. Them, the party media, a couple of newspapers with limited circulation, a couple of journalists who are deep in debt and at the same time make fun of themselves every day on social media, a few pathetic internet trolls, some old lads who became known while being in ERT and that’s all. This is the media planning of SYRIZA.
If the Mitsotakis government, which is dangerous for the people and the country, was not in power, then the situation that defines SYRIZA’s relationship with the media would be laughable.
But, alas, it is not.