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Alexis Tsipras to push for new Greek TV reforms after court setback

On Wednesday, 14 of the State Council`s 24 judges said an October 2015 law limiting the number of private TV broadcasting licences to four -- half the current number operating -- was unconstitutional and should be overturned.



London: The Greek government said Thursday it would make a fresh push to reform the private TV sector, after a top court blocked its previous attempt in a major blow to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

On Wednesday, 14 of the State Council`s 24 judges said an October 2015 law limiting the number of private TV broadcasting licences to four -- half the current number operating -- was unconstitutional and should be overturned.

"The prime minister has asked that a new draft law be ready by Monday so it can be put before parliament," government spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said Thursday.

Last month, in the face of protests from the opposition and excluded broadcasters, the government auctioned off the four licences for a total of 246 million euros ($268 million).

In its majority ruling on Wednesday, the administrative court said Greece`s independent broadcasting watchdog, not parliament, should have spearheaded the reforms.

This was a major blow to the far-left Syriza government, which had announced the reforms to great fanfare, saying they would clean up a sector that has been dominated by powerful oligarchs and dogged by murky financing for a quarter of a century.

"This is a binding but unjust decision," state minister Nikos Pappas, architect of the reform, told public TV Ert 1.

Gerovassili said the ruling would "deprive the state budget of necessary funds, which society needs, and which will be returned to four wealthy businessmen", referring to the owners of channels that were auctioned off.

"This decision takes the country back to a previous (media) regime that was also judged anti-constitutional," she said. "We will not allow this to happen."The opposition conservative New Democracy party hailed the verdict, saying "undemocratic machinations" have not succeeded and calling for early elections.

"Very soon, certainly next week, we will put forward a counter-proposal to resolve this complex situation," the party`s leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told reporters.

"We would like to talk (to the government) but from what we hear, this is not the direction they are taking, because they want to come back again with another strange, unconstitutional proposal," he said.

"The government must swallow its pride," he said.

The government has insisted that Greece`s media and advertising market, depleted by the country`s six-year debt crisis, is limited and only viable TV stations should be allowed to continue broadcasting.

Authorities have said they want to clean up an industry known for workforce exploitation and rumoured under-the-table deals between media moguls, bankers and influential politicians, while bringing an end to decades of chaotic licensing.

Government officials noted that ever since private TV broadcasts began in Greece, channels have been allowed to operate on provisional licences renewed 15 times since 1995.

But critics said the overhaul was merely a ploy by Tsipras to replace established TV barons -- who have opposed his Syriza party in the past -- with others more to his liking.

From Zee News

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