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Crisis in Greek Television – Part 1

The recent economic crisis in Greece has had a devastating impact on Greek television. In this first of a two-part blog, Georgia Aitaki explores the rise and fall of Greek private television since the 1990s.

Following the deregulation of the Greek media landscape in 1989, the television industry experienced the extensive introduction of private interests. The main means for the financing and long-term sustainability of these privately-owned companies were the profits made through advertising.

Greek private channels

Some of the private channels of Greek television

During the 1990s and 2000s television dominated the Greek media industry and concentrated the largest number of advertising revenue. As a result, more private stations appeared, the production of all kinds of programmes flourished, and more and more audiences were attracted by the medium of television, which promised to satisfy both their informative and entertaining needs.

The process of deregulation took place in a highly chaotic fashion and most scholars agree that it was imposed by eager entrepreneurs rather than implemented according to a concrete plan. During the 1990s the national media landscape was already playing by the rules of free market with the emergence of the two first private channels, Mega Channel and Antenna TV.

Several other stations of panhellenic and local broadcasting range were founded, some of the most significant ones being Star Channel, Skai, Seven X and New Channel. Some of the owners of these new stations were already involved in the media industry, owning at the same time newspapers and radio stations.

The ideal of pluralism was gradually transformed into an oligopoly; few powerful groups of outlets controlled the whole process of production and dissemination of information and succeeded in securing great proportions of advertising revenues, essentially becoming pressure groups with significant influence on the government.

Since the introduction of private television in Greece, television fiction has been traditionally associated with prime-time slots, big revenues and, of course, entertainment. The arrival of private channels was accompanied by a warm interest in the production of programmes of television fiction.

TV fiction in crisis


Oi Aparadektoi, one of the first and most successful comedies of private television in Greece

Despite the popularity of other programmes such as game-shows, satire shows and films, the prime-time slots (19:00-23:00) were traditionally covered with fiction. Comedies dominated both in terms of quantity and in terms of ratings, while soap operas and general drama followed closely. Private channels, namely Mega Channel and Antenna TV immediately built a reputation for their fiction, attracting the highest viewership percentages.

On the other hand, public broadcasting was not able to keep up with the fast pace of competition; although fictional programmes were still produced, they were significantly less than during the years of state monopoly.

For twenty years, fiction was leading the major private channels’ programming; a number of different genres developed, depicting various aspects of Greek social reality and accommodating to the needs of a diverse audience. In 2009 Dimitris Rigopoulos wrote an article in the newspaper Kathimerini on the occasion of twenty years of private television, commenting on the relationship between fiction and Greek society:

“There is no better mirror for a society other than its television product. And fiction is the place where the product acquires almost automatic bonds with society. Not so much because fictional programmes decode (even coarsely) social behaviors or represent the reality of the outside world; it is rather because the tendencies in fiction, the greatest successes and the most prominent failures usually give us an idea about who we are, what we like and what we don’t like”.

Ironically enough, the same year that private television was celebrating its 20th birthday, the Scriptwriters Guild of Greece organized an open discussion about “the magnificent absence of Greek fiction from television”, where scriptwriters, directors, actors as well as the general public expressed their discontent and anxiety about the fact that domestic fictional programmes gradually vanished from Greek television.

The crisis of fiction was of course only one aspect of the ways that the crisis affected private television. The year 2009 was particularly significant for the world of advertising in a way that created much agony about the future of the industry.

According to a report that followed a research project conducted by IDATE -formerly known as the ‘Institut de l’audiovisuel et des télécommunications en Europe’- “the worldwide television market was, in 2009, primarily affected by the decline in advertising revenue of 9.2%”. This noticeable relapse was addressed as a direct outcome of the global financial recession, leading Florence Le Borgne, project leader of the World Television Markets report to admit in IDATE’s report on ‘Markets, Trends Facts & Figures (2008-2013)’: “Industry did not escape the consequences of the global economic crisis; the crisis particularly affected television advertising revenue”.

In Greece, the numbers reveal that the recent crisis has been relentless towards the advertising industry. While in the beginning of 2010, the advertising revenue indicated a fall of 14%, in November of the same year the fall reached 30% and total loss came to €70 million. Although television stations continued to gather the largest proportion of the advertising revenues, the total amount of their profit dropped from €85 million to €54 million, which indicated a fall of 37%.

The new facts left no other option to television channels, other than to renegotiate the way they handle their economic affairs; like most industries and individuals who saw their profits and wages diminishing during the years of economic recession, television was also forced to limit rampant spending and come up with ways to survive on a smaller budget.

Georgia Aitaki is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg. Her research project (under the working title “Private television, public culture”) examines commercial Greek television fiction produced between 1989 and 2012.  
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