Austerity hits home and jeopardizes European Science Journalism

Submitted and reported by Vasiliki Michopoulou (“Vaso”) at EHFG 2013 The austerity has caused huge economical problems to Greek journalists also. More than half of them are officially unemployed but the number […]

Submitted and reported by Vasiliki Michopoulou (“Vaso”) at EHFG 2013

img614The austerity has caused huge economical problems to Greek journalists also. More than half of them are officially unemployed but the number is hard to discover because it increases every day. Thousands of jobs have been lost and dozens of outlets have been shut down, denying newsrooms of some of its most veteran and talented professionals.

Five thousand are registered with the Athens Union of Print Journalists (ESYEA) but others can no longer afford to join. Salaries are low and have recently been cut by about 15%. Journalists, among the country’s poo­rest-paid professions, earn an average €500-€600 a month (wi­thout a pension or social security), out of which social security has to be paid for (€230).

And the Greek media isn’t just hurting in terms of raw numbers – it’s also taken hits to its most valued asset: credibility. A huge crisis of confidence has  arisen between Greeks and their media. Journalists have big pro­blems doing their job each day but the main concern is how the media market is organised.

  • From that point of view, society feels media companies lack independence of vested interests, and respond to ideological and economic clientlism
  • Media groups are poorly funded, artificially supported and in danger of collapsing or even disappearing.
  • Salaries are low and have recently been cut by about 15%”, Journalists are seen as delinquents or over-privileged, and by some as the symbol of an evil power that has betrayed the country, at least by omission.

The government announced a major shut down of ERT on 11 June 2013. The goverment said ERT had for a long time been a “very costly”  operation for the government and added that it would be made “non-partisan” and “better quality,” with a guaranteed profit of some millions. That has not happened yet.

Some media groups are planning to negotiate bankruptcy (known as the article 99 process) and so halt payments, which would protect them from their creditors. It would also allow media owners to skip paying salary arrears and rehire journalists on new terms, outside collective labour agreements:

Journalists keep stressing that they have no business doing “public relations” work for political parties or media owners.  In Greece we are surrounded by ideas such as political opportunism, bullying, corruption, favoritism and individualism. Unfortunately we are lacking a strong civil society that could put the brakes on government arbitrariness and manipulation.

See also Vaso’s web presence  –> http://vmihop.wordpress.com/

 

About Wolfgang C. Goede

Wolfgang C. Goede is a science journalist based in Munich, Germany. He is a board member of the German Association of Science Writers TELI.