Two more influential dailies fold in Greece
If the worst predictions prove true, the media landscape in Greece will change drastically as of today.
If no source of financing is found at the last moment, as of Jan. 30, two of the oldest and best-known newspapers, with a history of almost a hundred years, will cease publication due to insurmountable financial problems. To Vima, which has been in circulation since 1922, and Ta Nea, since 1931, may have to end their long lives as the publishing group to which they belong, the Lambrakis Press Group (DOL), announced that it has no available resources, cannot support the printing of its newspapers and cannot ensure the operation of the other media outlets it owns. Together with these two historic newspapers, numerous magazines, news sites and the Vima FM radio will have to close, too. About 500 employees are expected to lose their jobs.
The economic crisis in Greece has hit printed media badly at a time when the sector was already going through its own existential crisis against the onslaught of internet-based news outlets and the rise of social media. Already there have been victims. Before the crisis with DOL, other Greek newspapers had to cease publication due to falling sales and a lack of available funds. The most prominent and dramatic recent case was that of Eleftherotypia, a vibrant, outspoken daily that was founded in 1975, just after the fall of the military rule in Greece, and gathered a myriad of talented and courageous journalists, critical of the wrongdoings of any political power. Elefterotypia was hit by the financial crisis in the country and was unable to service its debts. It filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and was finally shut down at the end of 2014, leaving dozens unemployed and unpaid.
A similar end is now in play for the two major newspapers of the DOL group. The company failed to service its debt commitments to its four Greek lenders, amounting to almost 100 million euros, and the banks decided to place the group under receivership but not allow it to continue publishing its papers. And while the operation of the group was effectively gagged by its creditors, the president of the group, veteran journalist and the long-time renowned editor-in-chief of To Vima, Stavros Psycharis, is currently being prosecuted for tax evasion and money laundering. His critics accuse him of not using his money to save his group.
In a dramatic leading article entitled, “Who is strangulating the press,” the writer – most probably Psycharis himself – lashed out against his lenders, accusing them of lacking “any sense of historicity and accountability,” of “strangulating the voices of broad democratic expression” and of not realizing that the closure of the two newspapers will also “degrade the values of the post-civil war system, causing the collapse of the main foci of literature, art and culture.”
For all of us who have grown up and lived in Greece since the latter part of last century, DOL’s threat that the loss of these two newspapers will mean the loss of two important hubs of art and culture is something we understand very well. Both newspapers with a center, center-left editorial line were the platform where journalists, academics, artists, cartoonists and literary figures would compete to provide the richest and most varied output. Its loss would certainly leave a huge void for a reader who wants to go beyond the daily news coverage and acquire a broader view of our world.
However, although the recent economic crisis is most to blame for the upheaval in the Greek media, there may also be other factors contributing to these latest dramatic changes. It is no secret that the Alexis Tsipras government has been hit hard by the traditional media outlets, especially the DOL group. And it is no secret that if these two critical publications ceased to exist or entered the hands of a less critical owner, that would be a big relief for the government at a time when its future is at stake. In that sense, we should wait to see if this is the final act in the drama of DOL or an intermission before a new life.