ΟΙ ΔΙΕΘΝΕΙΣ ΠΡΟΟΠΤΙΚΕΣ ΤΗΣ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗΣ ΕΠΙΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑΣ: ΣΤΗΝ ΕΛΛΑΔΑ Η ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΚΗ ΚΡΙΣΗ ΕΠΗΡΕΑΖΕΙ ΤΗ ΣΧΕΣΗ ΤΩΝ ΜΜΕ ΜΕ ΤΗΝ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΚΗ

Οι κοινωνικές αλλαγές που δημιουργούν ένα νέο κοινωνικο-οικονομικό περιβάλλον στην Ελλάδα, επηρεάζουν και τη σχέση πολιτικής και ΜΜΕ, ιδιαίτερα στο επίπεδο της πολιτικής επικοινωνίας. Μετά την απορρύθμιση του ραδιοτηλεοπτικού συστήματος, την επικράτηση της «κομματοκρατίας» και την ουσιαστικά διαπλεκόμενη σχέση ανάμεσα στα κόμματα και τα ΜΜΕ που χαρακτήρισαν το επικοινωνιακό πεδίο τα τελευταία τριάντα χρόνια στην Ελλάδα, η κρίση που διέρχονται σήμερα τα ΜΜΕ είναι μέρος της διαρθρωτικής κρίσης που αντιμετωπίζει η χώρα και αντανακλά τη πολιτική και οικονομική κρίση της κοινωνίας.

Ακολουθεί ολόκληρο το άρθρο του Στέλιου Παπαθανασόπουλου που δημοσιεύτηκε στο Political Communication Report, June, 2012, Vol. 22, Issue 2

Media and Politics in Greece

Stylianos Papathanassopoulos
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Greece has been undergoing a series of social transformations, which are creating a new socio-economic environment. These changes also reflect the relationship between politics and the media, and more particularly in the field of political communication. This can be easily seen especially in the case of the broadcasting. Contrary to other Western European countries, the electronic media used to be under the tight control of the state. The general pattern of the broadcasting media in the state monopoly era was that a transfer of political power was followed by an equivalent changeover in the state media institutions’ executives. News and editorial judgments of particular importance, meanwhile, used to be in close agreement with the government position on a whole range of policies and decisions. This attitude of the Greek state was one of the most important features of the state electronic media.

The ‘modernization’ of the Greek media took place in the late 1980s with the deregulation of the broadcasting system and the development of a plethora of private TV channels. Greece has undergone a broadcasting commercialization, adopting a market-led approach, resulting in more channels, more advertising, more program imports and more politics. And, as in other Mediterranean countries, the publishers and other business-oriented interests have decisively entered the broadcasting landscape (Papathanassopoulos, 2000). The deregulation of Greek broadcasting, on the other hand, related to the rise of media logic. This process resulted in the state losing its gatekeeping function in the construction of mediated communication, the augmentation of media intrusion in politics and the commodification, if not marketization, of political communication. In effect, the overall degree of the displacement of the party by the media as the organizing force of the political communication system has been limited by the high levels of partytocracy in Greece (Samaras and Papathanassopoulos, 1997). Needless to say, at the core of partytocracy in Greece stands the over-extended character of the state

During this period political parties and politicians have faced considerable difficulties in getting their agendas placed before the public. For example, since the mid-1980s, accusations relating to scandals and corruption have become a frequent issue on the public agenda. In the past, political parties, which were based on a system of patronage, regardless of whether or not they remained leader-oriented, could not only create news items which were often incorporated into the national agenda, but they could also mobilize strong constituencies ready to support those agendas. The leading parties are now less able to differentiate themselves from one another on the basis of their political programmes. Although there had been congruence among them (New Democracy and PASOK-Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement), the recent major fiscal crisis has driven them to adopt similar, if not identical, policies, especially under the pressure by the so-called ‘troika’ (The EU, the IMF and the CEB). Β On the other hand, one could argue that Greece in the last decade has entered, a ‘demystifying process’ (Charalampis, 1996), which has allowed real problems in the formation and functioning of the Greek political system to appear and demonstrated the collapse of all sorts of alibis – social and political – available to politicians and political parties.

Hand in hand with these developments there is growing disenchantment with traditional politics. Research provided by various pollsters, shows that in the last decade, Greek citizens have become less supportive of the political parties, less trusting of the political system and more likely to abstain from party membership. This of course increases the scope of political marketing and professionalization since political parties and politicians try to find more effective or alternative ways to communicate with the voters. Political parties, on the other hand, despite using and adapting to new media techniques, communication and marketing practices, especially during the election campaigning period, have remained strong since so-called partytocracy, especially after the restoration of the Parliament, and ‘clientelism’ have remained strong in the Greek political system. Parties are simultaneously instruments of conflict (since they promote conflicting policies) and instruments of integration to the extent that this conflict organizes political life (Diamandouros 1993).

This situation has brought about a new kind of relationship between the media and politics in Greece. In effect, ‘party logic’ affects four aspects of media content: (a) dichotomous hierarchies of credibility: political actors affiliated with the party that the media outlet supports are more ‘credible’ sources and therefore their statements and activities dominate its content; (b) partisan agenda building: each outlet projected the topics that were beneficial for the party it supported. The instrumental actualization of the issues very often resulted in two different media agendas – one for the right wing and one for the left wing press. State television was also playing such agenda-setting games by highlighting issues whose instrumentality was beneficial for the government, and; (c) the audience is addressed as party loyalists and supporters not as neutral observers (Samaras and Papathanassopoulos, 1997). Explicitly or implicitly the conventions of polarized communication are employed by the media.

While the dominance of party logic guaranteed the perpetuation of the hermeneutic pillar of partytocracy; broadcasting deregulation and the consequent rise of media logic undermined it. The overtly partisan political discourse was replaced with a neutral and occasionally (not-so) covert anti-political discourse, political news items by non-political news items while audience depoliticization is actively promoted by life-style journalism and infotainment.

The current fiscal crisis seems to affect both the media and political system. While in the political arena one sees the collapse of the former leading parties (ND and PASOK, especially the latter), in the media system, a market characterised more by supply of media outlets than consumer demand, the cruel loss of advertising revenues (about 60% in the last three years) has led the Greek media in the most difficult period in their contemporary history. In fact, newspapers, magazines titles, as well as TV and radio stations have been forced to cease operations, while the license fee funded public broadcaster has been forced to cease operation of its digital thematic channels. Both in the public or the private media sectors, this situation has further boosted the lines of the «reserve army of unemployed» (in this case journalists and media people).

It seems that the media system, part of the structural crisis Greece faces, reflects the general political and economic crisis of the society. The political world is already in a state of flux. The elections of May the 6th have changed the leaders and the protagonists. The coming elections of June 17th, may change Greece.

References

Charalampis, D. (1996) “Irrational contents of a formal rational system”, pp. 289-311. In Christos Lyrintzis, Elias Nicolacopoulos, and Dimitris Sotiropoulos (eds.) Society and Politics: Facets of the Third Hellenic Democracy 1974-1994. Athens: Themelio (in Greek)

Diamandouros, N.P. (1993). “Politics and Culture in Greece, 1974-91: An Interpretation”, pp.1-25. In R. Clogg (Ed) Greece, 1981-89: The Populist Decade, London: The Macmillan Press.

Papathanassopoulos S. (2000). “Election Campaigning in the Television Age: The Case of Contemporary Greece”, Political Communication, 17:47-60

Samaras, A.N. and Papathanassopoulos S. (2006) “Pollispots in Greece:Β  Partisanship and Media Logic”, pp. 211-266. In Lee-Kaid, L. and Holtz-Bacha (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Political Advertising, London: Sage.

 

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