Cultural minister of Greece, Lina Mendoni, has sparked a debate among the country’s tourist and creative industries after announcing draft legislation to have more than 45 per cent of all music heard on local radio or in public spaces be Greek.

Mendoni revealed the draft bill, which is being put to public consultation, as a means of increasing the amount of Hellenic music played which naturally struggles given the prominence of English-language songs as reported in The Guardian.

“The spread of Greek-language music is limited. Statistics show that Greek music amounts to 30 per cent of what is heard; 70 per cent is foreign music. We … have a duty, under the constitution, to protect art,” Mendoni said.

The culture minister added that, in exchange for featuring more Greek songs, radio stations would be given more time to air commercials as a further incentive.

The quota proposed in the bill increases to 70 per cen in relation to music for state-funded films and audiovisual content.

The draft legislation has been warmly accepted for the most part by Greek singers, lyricists and composers who, after the significant hit of COVID-19, consider it “a ray of light and hope after the difficult and gloomy years of the pandemic”, Mendoni said.

There is opposition to the bill from the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers, who cautioned that “enterprises would prefer to remove music from common areas altogether” than acquiesce to this suggested law.

Private radio stations have spoken against the bill, not believing in enforcing more commercials on listeners, while the leftist opposition criticised the law as something akin to the military junta regime when they banned the Beatles and the miniskirt days after seizing power in 1967.

The Greek film industry echoed these concerns, considering the law a curb on freedom of expression that amounts to censorship.

“It’s been drafted with great sloppiness by a government that sees everything through the prism of business,” said Kyriaki Malama, shadow cultural minister and a film and theatre director before being elected for Syriza.

“That film-makers should be forced to include Greek-language songs in movies or risk forfeiting government grants – for that is what this law implies – is absurd. Like so much that this government does, it takes us back to dark epochs [in our history].”

Malama added that the bill could also prove detrimental to aspiring artists who produce non-Greek music and/or songs with English lyrics.

Mendoni doubled down on her belief in the bill being of benefit to the music business of Greece, saying that “this is the first time we are trying to do something to empower Greek-language songs”.

Louka Katseli, a socialist former economy minister and now director general of Edem, the collective management organisation that protects intellectual property rights on musical works, believes Greece is only doing what other countries did decades ago by introducing this bill.

“The bottom line is that unless you protect Grecophone repertoire and national music creators, they’ll become endangered,” Katseli told the Observer.

“They won’t exist in 10 years because of globalisation and the fact that international platforms increasingly promote English-language repertoires. Yes, there may be different ways of going about it, but the law is definitely going in the right direction. France did what we are doing years ago and was much tougher.”

She elaborated that Edem had pushed hard for young, innovative Greek musicians to be given more exposure at a time when radios often play the same songs.

“There needs to be an increase in the mix of music on the Greek radio,” Katseli said. “We need to create incentives for younger composers who are not known to the public so they can continue being creative.”

Mendoni has stipulated that opposing voices will be taken into account before the law is put to the vote in the coming weeks.

“We will listen to the comments and public debate [before] we shape the final plan. We have excellent contemporary creators [in Greece] who produce really great music.”