MEGA channel off air in Greece
October 8, 2018
By Chris Forrester
Greece top law body, the Council of State, has ruled that the MEGA Channel cannot resume broadcasting. The channel was the very first private TV channel, and immensely popular with viewers. Owned initially by a consortium of rich Greek, the channel went on air in 1989.
However, the transmission licences granted to MEGA and a handful of other commercial channels were at best ‘informal’ (as are so many things in Greece) and not subject to any sort of formal approval or auction/revenue process.
The period 1992-2005 saw various actions to structure Greek commercial TV properly, but each failed usually due to partisan politics. MEGA was seen as a favourite of the PASOK political party.
MEGA was kept afloat financially by ever-rising bank loans, and injections of cash by its rich owners, who usually had other media or construction income.
But the Greek financial crisis severely damaged that process and the shrinking of advertising income to the channel didn’t help. By 2015 the overall debts of Greek media – including MEGA – were more than €800 million, and the subject of severe criticism from the rising star of Greek politics in the SYRIZA political party which had vowed to break up the alleged corrupt triangle of Media, Bankng and Government.
Greece’s new parliament passed the ‘Pappas Law’ in 2016 forced a radical shake-up of media and broadcasting in particular, and establishing for the first time an auction/licensing regime for (initially) 4 slots for commercial TV. Various political arguments followed, and the ‘Pappas Law’ even declared unconstitutional in October 2017.
Various ownership changes have been made this past year, and MEGA had stayed on air showing old programming. Its 420 retained – but unpaid – staff had hoped for a favourable ruling from the Court.
Greece now has 6 officially recognised commercial channels, but not MEGA.