Greek media in the post-crisis era
Information comes to us in more ways than traditional media
One of the most interesting changes in our lives since the 2009 crisis has been the increased number of voices apparent on the internet (blogs, portals, forums), the free press and even public gatherings, that altogether complement what is called ‘traditional media’.
The moment when Greek society came to realize it was dealing with something more than usual would be the outburst of the first major measures taken by the Greek Government of G. Papandreou in order to de-escalate public spending in early March 2009. It was then, when the press officer at that time, Mr. Petalotis, announced the actions that would help rationalize and minimize the expensive public sector by cutting up something like 20 per cent of the salaries of every single employee being paid by the public budget. It was a surprise to receive news while in Australia during this period, not because of the brutal character of those measures, but because of how the news reached me: a shocking video of the announcement mixed up with an adult video of an ex-beauty pageant starlet who had just went public that exact day - along with the new government policy that is! It was clear to me that Greek society was more willing to give attention to an anticipated sex video, than to the most crucial merit of the crisis announcement. This edited sex video was displayed with certain body parts covered on public television at around 11:00 and, naturally, it was then only a matter of a couple of hours until it was uploaded onto everybody’s Facebook wall. So, instead of dealing with the economy and being concerned, Greeks were being amused by parallelism and innuendo (Greek society being abused just like the scenes of the video). This made it easier to continue sitting comfortably on their couches.
Greek society has come a long way since then, or I would like to hope. During that same time, the blogosphere has made a dynamic appearance. This most notably began with a blog called troktiko (mouse, rodent) that hosted continuous updates on headlines and current affairs utilising an independent and uncompromising view, strikingly contradicting other means of information. Indeed, it was embraced by the public so much that at one point it was getting 1.5 million visits a day, while the average viewed news broadcast got something like 500 thousand viewers. This in a population of 11 million. People, and especially young people, actively rejected the television and sought updates by turning to genuine journalistic content such as this particular one that refused to adhere to any rules of corruption, nor threats to seize free expression, but stood up to denounce the unrightful practices of the mainstream system and it’s behaviours. Posts were revealing, exposing a range of injustices from ordinary complaints about public administration neglecting their services, to being corrupt or useless, all the way to uploading a photograph of the most powerful and discrete Greek tycoon family with the title: “Voila! Who’s holding the reins in Greece!” Soon after this image was added, the managing blogger was shot dead by a terrorist group, using a method that resembled an intelligence assassination less than a terroristic group. Nonetheless, the decentralization of the sources of information had been accomplished and no longer did the dictatorship of the media stand alone with the key to influencing voters and demonstrators.
Frenzy is the word to describe the situation in the media after mixing up these three elements: financial crisis - disorientation of public opinion - spread and increased sources of information. Networks with a long and strong presence went bankrupt when faced with a dramatic reduction of advertising budget, revealing the financial mismanagement of their companies. This also had to do with viewers becoming users of the internet (a global tendency of course). Greeks spent less and less time in front of the television, while an increasing majority (60 per cent) expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of information being shared (opinion poll of Pulse for the newspaper The Mouse of 26-05-2011).
What soon followed was the uncontrollable flow of information that reached mostly young users of the internet, depicting both: opinions of valid and “uncompromising” authors and quick information. People have become interested in how international economies function and have given room for scientists to have their say before ever larger audiences. Articles by economists such as Y. Varoufakis, receive enormous popularity and form not only opinions but even political parties’ programmes. This is the case of the new popular party Syriza that bases it’s arguments to oppose the austerity strategy on a fundamental position of the above mentioned economist that says, more or less, that the crisis is a systemic and political crisis and must be dealt with as such, instead of alienating the problematic parts of the eurozone.
This way, the Greek people have had a direct vote on what they consider valid and independent information and broadcasts, or what satisfies their hunger for conspiracy theories to avoid all the blame for the crisis, or their xenophobia that supplies an alibi to elect an extreme, authoritarian, racist and violent party. It even makes it possible to read what they’d like coming directly from the mouth of reputable voices, such as an BBC article that was broadcast by this blog in a free translation with a main point being that loans are granted to serve the debts enormous interests solely, which, unless my English is bad, is not what the reporter supports in the article.
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