Greece’s Supreme Administrative court, the State Council, ruled on Wednesday as unconstitutional the government’s law on the TV licensing procedure.
Following a marathon debate on the constitutionality of the law which lasted several weeks, the judges annulled the tender which was carried out this autumn, with 14 votes against the law and 11 votes in favor.
According to the ruling, the law approved by the Greek parliament earlier this year which foresees the transfer of jurisdictions from the TV regulator, the Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV), to the State Minister Nikos Pappas, violates the Constitution.
After this development, the auction of four nationwide TV licenses concluded in September is annulled and new initiatives by the government were expected.
Cabinet ministers had told Greek national news agency AMNA and other local media lately that should the law is deemed unconstitutional the dozens millions euros already paid by the winners of the tender in October, will be returned.
Under the tender some 250 million euros (272 million U.S. dollars) would reach state coffers within months.
Under the government’s plan which had caused strong reactions by opposition parties and media unions, the private TV stations which have been operating on temporary licenses for up to three decades and did not secure a license, would close within the next few months.
Journalists and technicians had staged several protests in recent weeks against the law and the tender, arguing that at least 2,000 employees would lose their jobs in a country already suffering from high unemployment rates.
After Wednesday’s ruling the government needs to find another way to “put order” to the media landscape in Greece.
In a first reaction by the government, Olga Gerovassilis, the government spokeswoman told ERT that on Monday the government will submit to the parliament a new draft law which foresees the issuance of temporary TV licenses until the permanent ones will be issued.
The government is determined to clear the media landscape of corruption, she said.
The government has said that the tender was held to ensure that private TV channels from now on would be financially sustainable so that their owners would no longer rely on under-the-table deals with bankers and politicians to keep them afloat.