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Media shakeup: Greece raises €246m with sale of four TV licences

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By Robert Hackwill
Media shakeup: Greece raises €246m with sale of four TV licences

The winners have been announced in the great Greek TV sell-off, with four companies winning bids for television channels in an unprecedented auction. The sale of four broadcast licences has immediately raised 246 million euros for the Treasury. The winning bids ranged from nearly 74 million euros to just over 43.5 million.

The Minister of State’s imposition of segregated purdah on the eight bidders holed up in his ministry has been questioned, but he is happy all the licences have gone to Greek concerns.

“We are profoundly very satisfied, and very happy for the outcome of the auction, especially because we have managed to send a message both inside and outside the country, and that is something that Greece needs, especially after the economic crisis, that Greece is a country that is recovering,” said Nikos Pappas.

One of the winners, Skai TV remained critical of the procedure throughout, but ended up making the smartest business with the lowest bid of the four. Analysts seem to agree that the total price paid for the licences was a high one. The EU has played no part as no European legislation covers the sector. Vangelis Marinakis’s “Alter Ego” company made one of the highest bids.

“We didn’t buy, or we didn’t enter a contest for a licence. We came here to negotiate, in order to pay a ransom to free a hostage, in order to continue the operation of an independent media, which has written its own history, and as now seems, will continue to write its own history”, said Skai TV’s Kostas Kimpouropoulos.

Greece’s biggest private TV company Mega did not even make it to the 66-hour-long auction, and now along with the failed bidders will have to stop broadcasting in 90 days. It is all a big fix according to both those who are staying on the air, and those who face oblivion.

“This government’s so-called fight against media tycoons is a left wing alibi for the populist government of Mr Tsipras which has proven unable to fulfil its economic promises,” said Mega Channel’s News Director Manolis Kapsis.

Russian-born Greek billionaire and politician Ivan Savvidis, whose Dimera group lost out, would only say he was happy the auction had raised so much money, and hoped that the government would spend it on pensioners with no health insurance. His bid had actually been the third-highest.

“In the next five days, the Greek authorities have to check the economic figures of the winners and in 15 days the winners will have to pay the first of three installments of the total amount. In the meantime the Greek courts have to rule on appeals made by the competing bidders. In 90 days whichever channel is not licensed must stop its broadcasts,” reports euronews’ Akis Tatsis.