Since the late 1980s, the Greek audiovisual media sector is organised in two tiers: the public radio and television broadcasting, represented by ERT (the Greek Radio and Television corporation), and a large number of private radio and television channels. There is legislation putting restrictions on the ownership of media by companies or individuals having other large-scale financial interests as foreseen by the EU free market provisions. There are also two competing digital satellite TV and radio services, bundling together a large number of international and Greek channels. Cable TV is not gaining ground visibly in Greece.
Private TV channels cannot be said to have a cultural agenda (although the positive portrayal of economic immigrants and Roma people in recently screened sitcoms may be noteworthy), and rare experiments in niche arts programming have not met with commercial success. On the other hand, the public broadcasting corporation ERT has an educational and cultural agenda described in its official mission: “to develop public radio and television through the production of high quality programmes which promote impartial and full information, diversity, entertainment, preservation of historical memory, promotion of Greek and world culture, and eradication of xenophobia and racism”.
Together with ERT, the other two public TV channels (entertainment-oriented NET and regional-focus, Thessaloniki-based ET3), regularly commission and broadcast programmes of cultural interest, including, cultural and historical documentaries, adaptations of literary and theatrical works for TV, and cultural magazinos. They also broadcast Greek and international quality films, musical events and other programmes of cultural interest. The programmes of the satellite channel ERT-SAT, transmitted in the Greek language and intended for the Greek Diaspora, include a strong component of predominantly Greek cultural programming; a digital terrestrial channel launched by the state broadcaster, PRISMA, notable in providing arts and general interest programmes for people with hearing disabilities, i.e., with captioning and / or sign language simultaneous translation, was abolished in 2012 in the context of financial cuts; accessibility features will be added instead in the broadcasts of the main TV channel ET1. The Hellenic Parliament TV is an institutional agency, which apart from keeping track of parliamentary activities, brings cultural events and developments to the attention of the general public through TV programmes on education, science and culture, indicative of the channel’s wish to contribute to an improved citizen education.
Of the two dozen nation-wide and regional radio stations in the public broadcasting system, Radio Cosmos specialises in multicultural, folk and ethnic music from all over the world. The 3rd programme focuses on Classical music, but also hosts jazz and traditional music, literature, and arts programmes. Most radio stations follow, in practice, a zone system allocating several hours of broadcasting per day to Greek music. In addition, public radio has regular programmes for migrant worker communities, transmitted in languages other than Greek, and a short wave programme transmitted globally. Finally, public radio corporation ERT has launched Philia, a radio station transmitting in 13 languages with a mixed cultural, news and general interest programme, targeting migrant worker communities; this covers the void left by the closure of Athens International Radio, the successful multicultural, foreign-language programme of the Athens Municipality which ceased transmission through the airwaves in 2008 when public funding for its operation was withdrawn.
Due to fiscal priorities, a restructuring of the Greek Radio and Television Corporation is currently under way, leading to a significant reduction in the number of state TV and radio channels (see above). The whole media sector in Greece, including private TV and radio, is undergoing a significant crisis leading to the closing of newspapers and magazines, as well as TV and radio stations, leading to large numbers of redundancies.
To put the role of public media organisations in context, it should be noted that public television channels are watched by only ca. 10% of all viewers, while the preferences of the majority of viewers lie with international brand reality shows, Greek and imported sitcoms, and standard entertainment industry films shown by the private channels. While public media organisations do see themselves in a cultural or educational role, it is apparent that television, radio and cinema are perceived by the public mostly as entertainment.
There is no evidence on formal and extensive training programmes intended to educate journalists in new multicultural realities. However, an increasing number of university graduates, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are employed by the media sector; academic degrees in communication and media are offered by four universities and have an orientation towards liberal studies.