Wednesday, 12 June 2013

My Reading of the Greek Public Service Media Close-down

With the atrocities in Syria and the desperate political violence madness currently wielded by the Turkish government against orderly civil protests as cover, the Greek government yesterday decided to close down its entire public service media institution (TV and radio) - effective immediately (see also here, here, here, here) – supposedly as a part of its program to restore the country's political economy and public finances. This astonishing action for a European democracy in peace time quickly takes Greece into the same shameful "almost on the brink of leaving the EU by democratic ideological default" league as close to fascist Hungary. An online petition against the action is here.

But the question is why this step was taken, especially why it was taken in the way it was - guaranteed to give rise to much more violent protests than if the institution had been dismantled piece by piece, after having its services undermined by piecemeal cut-downs in the customary way. Critics are reacting to the immediate and symbolic brutality of the decision and understandably reminding about the times of the junta dictatorship of the 1970's, and the technically already unemployed public service media professionals are wowing to somehow continue independent broadcasting: here. In this, they are now actually being helped by the European Public Broadcasting union, EBU (whose members are the public broadcasting agencies of other European states) to do so and the fruits of this ongoing partly public, partly civil disobedience action can be viewed online here.

I, however, do not subscribe to the hypothesis that the Greek government wants to get rid of public service media altogether. Neither do I believe that the action just taken has any direct essential role in the ongoing economic restoration activities - whatever view one may otherwise have about this. It does have an indirect role, since the operation of an independent public service media has made the job of the government in this respect much more difficult. However, a Greek government without access to a public service media institution will be at least as much crippled in the current situation, where any crazy rumour can attain eternal life and set the country ablaze via internet-based social media virals. For a government in crisis and under pressure as the current Greek one, access to a public service broadcasting platform is the only thing left to counter such anarchic forces.

So, here's what I think. The plan is not to get rid of public service broadcasting, the plan is to get rid of its independence. To do that in an effective and rhetorically minimally plausible way, it has to be shielded by a cloak of economic necessity – this leads to the decision to trash the whole thing and sack everyone involved. This will be possible to spell out in terms of an impressive amount of money being saved. However, I'm quiet sure that the government and its strategists have foreseen the protests and problems that are now ensuing to implement this decision effectively. They also know that they need a public service broadcasting platform. So here's what they'll do (and have planned to do all along):

1. Close down the original institution / agency (already done)
2. Watch protests ensue (ongoing)
3. After a suitable time, give in to protests and concede the need for a public service broadcasting institution, maybe a wink or two to a sensitivity to the strong feelings of the Greek people, or similar rhetoric mumbo jumbo that suits time like these
4. Do not, repeat, do not resurrect what was being done with through step 1!
5. Instead, for instance motivated by economic circumstances, decide to form an entirely new public institution or agency, with the mission of providing public service broadcasting on a scale suitable to the current financial limitations
6. This institution will be construed according to the needs of the government to enforce its policies, that is its statutes will guarantee against too much of independence
7. Hiring staff will carefully avoid rehiring of known troublemakers and contracts are engineered so that people who do not conform are easy to get rid of, probably through outsourcing most steps of the production-process to private contractors.

End result: the government can claim to have followed the will of the people, has access to a powerful propaganda tool, has saved a chunk of money and gotten rid of the pest of independent public service media in the process.

Of course, this is just the paranoid, delusional fantasies of a crackpot academic. Just watch them and see for yourself!