ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's leftwing government promised Monday to overhaul the country's private TV licensing system in the next two weeks as part of reforms it says will target corruption.
Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said draft legislation for the new process will be submitted to parliament this week, despite objections from channel owners who say the government is seeking to gain too much supervisory authority.
Private TV channels first launched 25 years ago but have never operated under a full licensing process, largely due to long-running political disputes over oversight rules.
An auction for new 10-year licenses is expected next year and will exclude companies in tax arrears and with major state contracts — a provision the government argues will stop media owners applying political pressure to win public works deals.
"There has to be some order in the TV landscape ... No one who wants to see this issue addressed should fear anything about this bill," Gerovasili told private Parapolitika radio.
Eight channels currently broadcast nationally, and Gerovasili said the number of accepted bids was likely to be between five and eight, depending on the quality of offers made.
Greece's leftwing government has abandoned its pledge to end economic austerity after giving into pressure from bailout lenders to make deeper cuts. But it has promised to embark on major reforms it says long-established political parties were unwilling to make.
"This law is about fairness but obviously also about corruption," said a government official involved in preparing the draft legislation. He asked not to be named pending the bill's submission to parliament.
The reforms, he said, would also affect online-only news media which would be invited join a voluntary standards register in return for access to a state-run digital archive and government advertising.
Regulation of broadcast media is a fiercely contested issue in Greek politics.
The previous conservative government shut down state broadcaster ERT in 2013 and replaced it weeks later with a smaller operation. The state TV and radio channels were restored after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' leftwing Syriza party won elections in January.
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