Tag Archives: tv

Why we need the foreign media

Back in the days of the 1967-1974 colonels’ dictatorship, the free-thinking Greeks were depended on news coming from abroad. The BBC Greek service, the Deutsche Welle radio as well as media from France, were manned with Greek journalists who had escaped from Greece and were transmitting what could not be told by the censored Greek media. It’s sad to admit that we have started to return into a similar dependence when it comes to human rights violations in Greece.

Photo by Kostas Kallergis.

Especially in the past couple of years, there has not been a lack of proofs for a series of stories, yet the mainstream media in Greece have repeatedly and stubbornly denied to report on important stories. With Greece being in the international spotlight, the usual pattern was that a foreign medium would publish a story which would then be translated by some Greek portals back into Greek in a sort of what-the-foreigners-say-about-us kind of story. Nevertheless the Greek public, even through this pattern, has the chance to get informed about what is happening in our country.

I’ll give you two recent examples. Two weeks ago an anti-fascist motorcade protesting against the rise of neo-nazism met a group of far-rightists in a downtown Athens neighbourhood. The police was there too. Several leftists were arrested after the scuffle and spend a horrible night at the Greek Police HQ in Athens. When they were taken to court, some more leftists were arrested among the crowd who went  outside the courts in order to show support. Only a handful of leftist blogs reported the ordeal, despite the witness accounts and the visual proofs of their allegations for torture. Last week, the Guardian published this embarrassing report and suddenly all the mainstream portals and some tv stations have reported it. They were obliged to report it because it couldn’t be hidden any more.

In a similar fashion, some months earlier, the Reuters have published a report on questionable practices within Piraeus bank. There were two reports, one in April and one in July, the latter can be found here. These are stories for which journalists in other countries would kill to break but not a single media over here pursued the story (which would criticise the practices of a bank that has one of the biggest budgets for advertising). Ironically, the April report was based in already published documents by the anonymous blog WikiGreeks.org (which has in the meantime taken off the net for an unknown reason). So the information was there, lying freely on the net and no-one broke the story.

This is why I have been strongly convinced lately that the free-thinking democratic part of our society depends more and more on media like the BBC, Reuters and the Guardian.

I can’t take it anymore!

Here’s a graffiti I noticed in Athens’ north suburb of Halandri.

"I can't take it anymore!" (Halandri, Athens, 31/03/2011) by Klark Kent

And here’s a clip from the film “Network” (1976) directed by Sidney Lumet. Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the longtime anchor of the UBS Evening News, learns from news division president Max Schumacher (William Holden) that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two old friends get roaring drunk and lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. UBS fires him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises he will apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches back into a rant claiming that life is “bullshit”. Beale’s outburst causes the newscast’s ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher’s dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale’s antics rather than pull him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” out of their windows.

I don’t know if Klark Kent was inspired by the movie but the situation in Greece nowadays make these two things relevant.

For more artwork by Klark Kent you can also visit this page.

Alter(native) tv

Two weeks ago I had a coffee with a Dutch photographer who visited Athens for a photo workshop. We had a chat about what’s happening in Greece and he asked me about the story of Alter TV. I was surprised that he knew and he was surprised to find out that such things can happen are happening in a European country. A week later I visited the tv station with another Dutch journalist who is based here in Athens. Both thought that this was a story worth told and were puzzled that we Greeks don’t see it as “extremely interesting”, but rather as a normality. This is the story of Alter TV, one of the 6 private free-to-air channels in Greece.

Alter TV's offices (Photo: Kostas Kallergis)

The station is in a state that we call is “epischesi ergasias” (επίσχεση εργασίας), a phenomenon of the Greek job market I presume. So what is it? It’s something like a strike. When an employee owes several salaries to his employees, they have the right to proceed to an “epischesi ergasias”, which means that they still go to work, but are refusing to work because of the employer’s arrears. The difference with the strike is that they are not losing their wages while practicing it. They go to thei posts to show their readiness to work (though refusing to produce) and, in some cases, to protect the company’s personal (movable) property in case of bankruptcy. But let’s take the story from the beginning.

According to its employees, Alter TV got into financial trouble last year but managed to re-emerge as the second (and at times first) most popular news channel (based on the main news bulletins’ ratings). The channel is mainly owned by three men, the father and son Kouris and Kostas Giannikos who was also responsible for the day-to-day running of the place (the Kouris family had 51% of the shares, Giannikos had 25% and the rest was free floating on the market). In the past years he went on a borrowing spree, getting loans in the name of the Alter TV and then using them to create a network of sister companies which were totally depended  on Alter. A music company, Legend, which produced music CDs that were advertised solely on Alter. Modern Times was a publishing house whose books were also heavily advertised by Alter. At a time when publishing houses could not afford to advertise books on TV, Modern Times could advertise any piece of junk they wanted on prime time and see them easily in the Top-10 list. The employees of the channel were employed not only to produce the channel’s programs but a series of tv ad clips which were done for the sister companies at a dirt cheap cost. The station also sold great parts of its advertising time slots in advance without securing a constant cash flow. As a result, when the Greek financial crisis became a fact in this country the station went into trouble. The employers started owing a month’s salary at the beginning and were paying their employees at an increasingly unpredicted way. A salary after 1,5 month, another one after 2 and so on.

Right now the owners owe between 8 and 12 salaries to their employees who have been in a state of “epischesi ergasias” for more than 2 months. Kostas Giannikos left the company and focused on his other companies which also ran into financial troubles. The employees at his financial newspaper “Investor’s World” are also in a state of “epischesi ergasias” now. Alter TV’s new Board of Directors has told the employees that there is a possible investor who is willing to take over the channel but they can’t mention his name. According to their plan, out of 650 employees about one third (286 employees) will have to be laid off. They’ll get 70% of what is owed to them and will receive their compensations after 12-24 months. The ones who’ll stay will get 60% of what is owed to them, they’ll have to work for free for the coming months until the company officially enters the protection of Article 99 (Bankruptcy Law which protects about-to-bankrupt companies from creditors). Oh yes, there will also be a renegotiation (sic) of their salaries with 10%-30% cut according to their previous salaries.

The employees did not accept this proposal and are waiting for another solution. In the meantime they have been using the station’s frequency to broadcast messages against the owners, the Kouris family.

As they told us, it was their reply to a cheap and dirty propaganda war launched by the Kouris family against its own employees. This can best be depicted by a front page of Avriani newspaper (owned by the Kouris family) which, at an attempt to blame and shame the employees, gathered all salary expenses in the past two years, including the salaries of celebrity tv presenters, changed the amount to drachmas and published this:

Avriani (28-12-2011): The employees of Alter have pocketed 81.903.196.293 drachmas

Right now the employees of Alter TV are going to their offices every day. They are there to meet up with their colleagues and at the same time protect the facilities as there have been attempt by the employer and by creditors to extract part of the equipment (which, in case of bankruptcy, must be sold to fund their compensations). There has also been a widespread solidarity towards them by trade unions and single citizens, who are bringing foodstuff and other goods of need. The studio where they used to record the weather bulletins, the so-called Virtual Studio, is now turned to a warehouse where they gather all these goods.

Akrivi Kyrikou, one of Alter TV's camerawomen, shows the list of goods whic were donated to them (Photo: Kostas Kallergis)

Another studio, where cooking celebrity Vefa Alexiadou once produced her gastronomy show, is now used by the employees to cook for themselves.

Alter TV employees cook in the studio formerly used for a cooking show (Photo: Kostas Kallergis)

Apart from messages against the owner, the employees also produced a daily short news bulletin with news about their struggle, informing about other strikes (e.g. the strike at of the workers at Halyvourgia steel factory) and lately they included in their broadcasts documentaries (e.g. Aris Chatzistefanou’s Debtocracy) which have a critical point to the current Greek financial crisis, its causes and its possible solutions. Last week Alter TV’s transmitters were shut down. So all you can now see is this

Europe puts Greece on eBay

Just a quick funny note on Greece’s image abroad. In a recent episode of American animated sitcom The Simpsons, created by Matt Groening, Homer was invited to a TV news program. A friend noticed that on the news crawl at the bottom of the screen there’s this:

Europe puts Greece on eBay

I wonder when is the deadline for this eBay auction, what kind of offers would be made and who would even want to make any offers at all.

You can watch the full episode here. The screenshot is approximately from 7:20.

Go Greek for a Week… parody-trailer

The popular comedy show “Radio Arvyla” have produced a parody trailer for the British reality show “Go Greek for a Week”, produced by Channel 4. I thought I’d post something funny while we wait for the name of our next Prime Minister.

Go Greek for a Week

The Greek crisis has finally become a reality… show.

I’m pasting below the description of a new tv show which will be hosted by UK tv network Channel 4.

Three British families try out the tax, pensions and work practices that caused Greece’s economic crisis and brought on the austerity measures aimed at cutting the deficit and qualifying for EU bailouts.

A 54-year-old British hairdresser discovers the generosity of the Greek pensions system, which still allows hairdressers, pastry chefs, radio continuity announcers and people in almost 600 other jobs to retire aged 53 at 90% of their final salary because their jobs are defined as hazardous.

A bus driver reaps the rewards of the Greek approach to state-run services, where bus drivers are paid double the national average salary and receive extra bonuses for arriving at work early and for checking bus tickets.

And a British surgeon is delighted to discover how paying income tax the Greek way will transform his disposable income.

The personal experiences of the three main characters are supported by expert interviews that establish the patterns of tax evasion, corruption and mismanagement that have helped to sink the Greek economy.

The show’s webpage is here. I’m so curious to watch the first episode (tonight at 8pm UK time) even if I am personally in Season 2 of the Greek crisis series.