October 24, 2015 / 8:54 PM / 2 years ago

Greek parliament approves TV bill to regulate 'vampire' media

ATHENS (Reuters) - The Greek parliament on Saturday approved a bill to regulate the awarding of TV licences to broadcasters, as part of the leftist government’s efforts to clean up a sector it says is mired in debts and corruption.

In the first such reform for years, the bill would require television stations to bid for 10-year licences via auctions.

“This law is part of a wider plan. To change things, the political system must change, the banking system and the business model must change,” Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragassakis told parliament.

He called Greek media “vampire businesses” living on loans they are not likely to repay. “It’s not some sporadic scandals in an otherwise healthy system... It’s a system of power which has been created,” Dragassakis said.

The bill is part of moves by the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to implement reforms under the terms of Greece’s latest 86 billion euro ($94.8 billion) bailout from international lenders, its third since 2010.

Tsipras is attempting to satisfy Greece’s European Union and IMF creditors, including by fighting corruption in the private and state sectors, while seeking to ease the pain of the years of austerity measures that Greeks have endured.

Companies participating in the auction for national broadcast licences must have a minimum share capital of 2-8 million euros and employ at least 50-400 people, depending on the programs they show, according to the bill.

Private radio stations and TV channels emerged only in the 1980s, after decades of state media control. Opposition parties accused the government of trying to control the media instead of reforming it.

According to the bill, the auction terms, number of TV licences and map of frequencies will be defined by the minister for media and communications -- currently Nikos Pappas, one of Tsipras’ closest aides.

The starting auction price will be set by a joint decree signed by the finance and media ministers.

“You can’t fight corruption by giving all of the power over TV licences to one minister,” Stavros Theodorakis, leader of the centrist To Potami party, told lawmakers.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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