Country Profile: Greece

Alexis Tsipras, left opposition leader and chairman of the party Syriza, recently described the interests and influence network between Greek government, business and media as the “triangle of sin”.

A typical feature of this network to date has been the many media companies that were kept alive artificially, partly though generous loans, even before the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis which brought about high losses amongst media companies. This is partly because many media owners were simultaneously active and operated in other sectors of the Greek economy. They wielded their media exposure primarily for reasons of political and economic influence. Government-pleasing reporting by in-house media enabled, not only seldomly, but rather continuously, government contracts and public loans to be awarded to their own works or commercial enterprises.

The media-business incentives that created this system of interdependence led, combined with other factors, to half-hearted regulation and an inflationary high-density media in Greece. In 2009, on the eve of the crisis, there were 13 listed media companies, 39 day and 23 weekend newspapers, 14 weeklies, 10 nationally broadcast TV stations and hundreds of radio stations, all for a population totalling about 11 million.
The current financial crisis reveals the drawbacks and deficits of the Greek media system in a dramatic way. The Greek media industry is one of the domestic economy sectors that has been most troubled by the financial crisis. A study by the Reuters news agency at the end of 2012 placed the total volume of debt among the 18 largest media companies in Athens at over two billion euros. The sales and advertising revenues of media companies have been in a freefall since 2009. The decline in advertising revenue in 2012 was 28 percent compared to the previous year, and total sales fell in the period from 2009 to 2012 as much as 50 percent.

Many newspapers and operation of television stations have already been shut down, or are soon to be, including traditional newspapers such as the leftist "Eleftherotypia" or conservative "Apogevmatini". The television station "Alter" was shut down in August 2011 and now only broadcasts a test pattern, after sales declined 30 percent in 2010 and a total debt of 350 million euro was recorded. The owner of Alter TV, and chairman of the Real Media SA, Andreas Kouris was also sentenced to a term of four years on probation in early 2013 because of unpaid social security contributions in the amount of 9.7 million euros for employees of the TV station. More than 4,000 journalists have already lost their jobs since the crisis began. A lack of salary payments and pay cuts of up to 40 percent are currently part of the everyday work of journalists and reporters in Greece.

Basic data

Population: 10.77 million (rank 81 worldwide; CIA Factbook 2012)
Religions: Greek Orthodox (official) 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%
Biggest cities: Athens (3,17 million), Thessaloniki (0,81)
Government: Parliamentary Republic, 13 regions, an autonomous monastic republic (Athos)
President: Karolos Papoulias (since March 12, 2005)
Head of government: Prime Minister Andonis Samaras (since June 20, 2012)
EU member since: 1981
Unemployment rate in December 2012: 26.4% (source: eurostat)
Debt: 2011: -9.4% of GDP; 2007: -6.5% of GDP (source: eurostat)
Budget balance in relation to GDP: 2011: -9.1%; 2009: -15.4 (Foreign Office)
Share of global GDP: 2007: $ 362; 2012: $ 280.8 billion
Total advertising expenditure (in euros): 2010: 1,887,540.106; 2011: 1,593,945.665
Largest media and telecommunications companies: Lambrakis Press Group, Antenna Group SA, Pegasus Group, Teletypos SA.

Historical foundations

The emergence of the Greek press can be at dated to the 18th century, as Greek language titles were published in Western Europe in support of national independence movements in the Ottoman-ruled Greece. After the Greek state was founded in the 19th century and up until the fall of the military dictatorship in 1974, the publishing industry was seen as backward, which was particularly explained by the authoritarian and anti-democratic structures in place. The public broadcasting introduced in 1936 was supplemented in the late 60s with the establishment of the first national television channel, EIRT (Ethniko Idryma Rdaiofonias Tileorasseos).

With the introduction of private broadcasting - in late 1987 – the media landscape was transformed. Economic interests increasingly gained influence and the economic situation of media companies improved steadily. However, the close ties between publishers and political parties had a strong influence on editorial content. A strong party orientation could therefore be recognized, particularly evident in the regional presses. In addition, structural changes began to favor the formation of large media companies, such as the now international company Lambrakis.

Despite decades of infrastructural deficits, the use of internet and digital services has increased among the Greek population. This development is due to extensive government efforts, such as the "promotion of information and communication technologies", which has included several strategies for broadband use since 2005. This push, the "National Digital Strategy 2006-2013", was triggered by the European Commission which attested in 2008 in its annual report that Greece had a significant deficit in terms of access to the information society.

Media companies and corporations

The four major publishing groups in Greece - Lambrakis Press Group, Pegasus Group, Kathimerini AE and Tegopoulos AE - split 71 percent of the national press market among themselves in 2010. The Greek newspaper industry is in a state of steady decline: In the last decade, the average circulation of the country's biggest newspapers have declined dramatically (see Table III)

Table I: Greece's biggest media companies


Founded in





Lambrakis Press Group



2012: 97.65

2011: 26.1

2011: 209.1

Pegasus Group



2012: 93.67

2011: 20.6

2011: 202.2

Teletypos Television



2012: 84.63

2012: -8.0

2012. 88.0

Tegopoulos AE



2011: 45.95

2010: -3.3

2010: 75.2

Kathimerini AE



2011: 62.6

2011: 13.7

2011: 93.9


The history of the largest national media group, Lambrakis, is a model for the transformation and differentiation process of the Greek media sector, which saw the introduction of private broadcasting in the late 80s and increasing media convergence over the course of the 90s. Active for a long time as a small press company, Lambrakis has developed since the late 80s to become the international media and communications group it is today. The group is also in collaboration with its various subsidiaries in publishing, the press, the printing industry, the tourism industry and the internet industry. It issues, among others, four daily newspapers and 24 magazines, including titles such as the "Ta Nea" - the leading daily newspaper in Greece - To Vima, Ta Nea Savvatokyriako, Vima Tis Kyrikakis, and the sports daily Exedra Ton Spor. Lambrakis also owns national licenses for the Greek editions of National Geographic and Marie Claire magazine. In the digital sector, the group develops and operates various online portals and is also active as an internet service provider. Interests in television stations, a television production company and a press distribution service also constitute a part of the group's portfolio.

Teletypos SA is one of the major revenue-building media companies in Greece and acts principally as a broadcaster. The company operates the station Mega TV, the largest TV station in Greece in terms of both advertising revenue and audience share. The group is also active in the development and distribution of program formats, as well as the operation of other television and radio stations. The group has its own studios which produce content from commercials to more complex formats. The activities of thegroup are essentially tailored to reach the widest possible audience. The offered program formats range from Greek and foreign serial dramas and sitcoms to children's shows to news and sports broadcasts.

Antenna Group, which operates the television network ANT1, is one of the most profitable media companies in Greece. Because in its core, the company is focused on the segments broadcasting and online media, Antenna was not affected by the Greek newspaper crisis. Instead, in 2012, it further expanded its business activities in Greece and the Balkan countries.

Until the summer of 2013, public broadcasting in Greece (Elliniki Radiophonia Tileorassi AE; ERT AE) consisted, in addition to four TV channels (ET1, ET3, NET and ERT World) and four digital TV programs (Prisma +, Cine +, Spor + and Info +), of a number of radio stations with national and regional coverage (NET, Deutero, Trito, ERA Spor, Cosmos, Makedonia, Radio Filia etc.). The programs were financed by government grants, advertising revenues and licensing fees. The structural and financial deficits of ERT as a bureaucratic superstructure as well as the lack of investment (only about 24 percent of the revenues of the state broadcaster were typically used for investment and production, while the rest covered personnel and operating costs) intensified before the financial crisis. However, in June of 2013, prime minister Samaras decided to permanently discontinue the operation of ERT, firing all of its 2,900 employees. This decision was reversed after a few days by the highest court. ERT will now continue to broadcast until Samaras has introduced a concept for a new and slimmer version of a public broadcasting system.

Table II: Audience and advertising shares of Greece's biggest TV channels, 2010-2011 (in %)










Audience / Advertising share

20.2 / 29.8

15.1 /


9.7 /


12.2 /


10.9 /




3.0 /

NET+ET1: 4.6



19.8 /


16.7 /


10.3 /


12.9 /


8.9 /



2.5 /

NET+ET1: 2.0

Source: European Parliament

Table III: Paid circulation of Greece's biggest newspapers, 2002-2012 (in thousands)

Source: Athens Daily Newspaper Publisher Association

Table IV: Advertising revenues of Greece's major media segments 2011 (% of total revenues)

Source: Petros Iosifidis, Athens Daily Newspaper Publishers Association


Table V: The Most Popular Websites




Owned by


Search engine

Google Inc.



Social network

Facebook Inc.



Video streaming

Google Inc.


Search engine



Web portal

Yahoo Inc.



Paid-to-click site



Windows Live






Wikimedia Foundation









Sports news

Komrade Ltd.



Google Inc.






Word Press Foundation





Web portal



Web portal






Sports news





Source: (as of July 2013)

Regulatory structures and authorities

Greece commands central media and communications policy through the regulatory and supervisory authority vested in the State Ministry of Information and Communications (and 1994-2004 Ministry of Press and Mass Media). Here media-political orientations are formulated and the implementation of laws and regulations affecting the media sector are monitored.

As part of regulation policy discussions in 1989, the first law regarding private broadcasting was introduced, leading to the conception of a national broadcasting council. The Ethnikó Simvúlio Radhiotileórasis (ESR) has since then served as an independent supervisory body, monitoring the licensing program as well as public and private broadcasting. The second law regarding broadcasting (1993) confirmed the national broadcasting council and public broadcasting’s dependence on and connection to the government.

Typical of the Greek regulatory practice is the juxtaposition of rigid regulatory legislation and lax implementation of relevant legal requirements. In 2005, the European Commission even threatened to set requisite European payments if a proposed media concentration law - to date one of the strictest in the country's history – would have been applied by the Karamanlis government. In April 2007, the EU Commission decided again to accuse Greece of an alleged breach of community competition laws at the European Court. The trigger this time was the ministerial-arranged so-called "transparency certificate" the broadcasting council could demand from companies that wanted to enter into a service contract with the state. Going to the European Court of Justice was averted after the Greek government had deflected these plans.


The Greek media system was suffering even before the outbreak of the great household and sovereign debt crisis in a variety of structural, partly historically-grounded reasons, and partly due to the fault of relevant stakeholder deficits. The lack of quality content, excessive sensationalism and lack of neutrality in partisan political reporting, a backward information technology infrastructure and the high intrumentalisation of the media by politicians and companies are some of the issues with which the Greek media sector has repeatedly been connected.

The current debt crisis has tightly gripped all aspects of social life in Greece, and also the livelihoods of the many deep indebtted media companies in a quagmire situation. The risk associated with the crisis has furthered a loss of integrity and social credibility of the media sector, as well as of the democratic legitimacy of the political system of Greece as a whole.

The failure prior to the crisis to regulate mistakes and irregularities in the financial and economic nature of the system is currently an accusation directed towards leading media in Greece. The general attitude is that this failure was due to the involvement of the media players themselves in cliques of the political, economic and financial sectors - this is also fed by the recent news of new lending to the Teletypos Group. The thorny part of the award of the loan from four major Greek banks was the date: on January 16, 2013 new EU-led regulatory structures to monitor the granting of substantial loans should have taken effect. On January 3, Teletypos reported on its website, however, that it received a loan of nearly 100 million euros in the claim of "restructuring of long-term liabilities" and general business activities.

In February 2013 a ban against the threat of punishment was launched "presenting the consequences of the crisis based on personalized examples", which was directed primarily against the broadcast of images of bedraggled or neglected citizens on television. This, in addition to the dramatic fall in worldwide rankings to 84 (in 2007 Greece held place 30) in the current Press Freedom Index conducted by Reporters Without Borders, continues to give cause for concern about the future of the Greek media sector. Reporters Without Borders gives the reasons for its classification as follows: "The social and professional environment for its journalists, who are exposed to public condemnation and violence from both extremist groups and the police, is disastrous." As a result of such developments and recurrent scandals, the confidence of the country's citizens in the media of their homeland has sunk to a new low point.

The chief editor of the critical magazine Hot Doc, Kostas Vaxevanis, understands the hardships of everyday jounralistic life in modern Greece. His journal, published since 2012, was responsible for the publication of the so-called "Lagarde List" in October 2012 that listed a line-up of about two thousand Greeks with accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank. The former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde had given the list over to her Greek counterpart George Papaconstantinou, who was subsequently charged with having removed his own relatives from the list. Vaxevanis (chief editor of Hot Doc), dramatically summed up the state of the media landscape and the living and working conditions of journalists in Greece in a recent interview with the British Guardian: "We have reached the point where Greeks read the foreign press to find out what's happening in Greece. It is precisely what happened under the junta. It is not democracy or freedom of the press."




Add comment

* - required field

CAPTCHA image for SPAM prevention If you can't read the word, click here.

No comments

Institute of Media and Communications Policy

Visit the homepage of the Institute of Media and Communications Policy 

EU Country Profiles

» Poland

» Spain

» Greece


The European Database is funded by the Open Society Foundations' Media Program,

and the Rudolf Augstein Foundation.