Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alexis Tsipras - Fighting an uphill battle to get his message out

For fans of signs and omens the sudden end of summer and onset of rainy weather that accompanied the arrival in Greece's second largest city of the leader of the Radical left Coalition, Alexis Tsipras probably made perfect sense. The sudden chill in Thessaloniki seems to be a fitting metaphor for his relationship with the press as SYRIZA has an uphill battle on their hands trying to get the party's message out in the face of intense mainstream media hostility. With most of the traditional media joined at the hip to more mainstream parties such as New Democracy and PASOK  Tsipras has no natural allies in the media, whose members often play a dual role of journalist and party supporter, an incestuous set - up that has hobbled objective reporting for decades.

Although, by law his party's success in the previous elections guarantees them a certain amount of airtime on state run channels, the rest of the media has done its best to play down their importance.Hardly surprising given the fact that so much of Greece's media is owned by extremely rich oligarchs who are fighting tooth and nail to ensure the country implements austerity conditions demanded by the EU and IMF and so remains in the Eurozone.

The last thing they or the embattled coalition government need is another strong challenge from the Left that threatens to derail the current round of negotiations over spending cuts. As a result SYRIZA has found it hard to gain traction in public opinion and do more than present itself simply as a party of protest. Often it is forced to react to news agendas promoted by the current administration and their supporters in the Greece's news rooms. With the news cycle out of their hands they are forced to play defence and find it difficult to persuade anxious voters that they have are of constructive ideas and not just criticism.

Then again, it would have naive of Tsipras to have expected any other response from a media set up that is so wedded to the corruption and amorality of Greek government politics.  Instead of begging for a place at the table with the big boys, SYRIZA needs to get its message across to the people who no longer read papers or believe what they see on the TV news bulletins.

Some activists are unhappy that that the scale of their victory in June's election has made the party complacent, more interested in playing traditional party political games instead of using their new found leverage to reach out at the grassroots to more people affected by the collapse of the economy in a more direct manner.

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