The following interview was conducted by email early February, 2015. We hope it augers a close and continuing solidarity between Sto Kokkino and Z Communications.
(1) First, can you tell me how Sto Kokkino began and when? What is its current scale, regarding content, reach, and staff, as well? And what is your connection to Sto Kokkino and role? Please also tell us about your professional background and how you got involved with Sto Kokkino.
It was around this time of year, February 9th, nine years ago when “Sto Kokkino 105,5” radio station (meaning on red alert) was born in the city center of Athens.With a small transmitter and a lot of joy the station gave its own, clear message and a stage for radical voices and movements, cultural movements in particular. First owned by the Coalition of the Left party (Synaspismos), which has since evolved into Syriza.
After my dismissal from ERT, 18 months ago, Syriza proposed to me to get involved and take responsibility for this radio station.At the Greek public TV station ERT, I was co-editor and co-anchor, along with my colleague Marilena Katsimi, of a morning news broadcast. The dismissal was a clear case of censorship, because we had decided to broadcast a report by the English newspaper The Guardian , alleging that Greek Police had tortured citizens after an anti-fascist demonstration.
After some time, as you already know, in June 2013 the three-party coalition government of Greece decided to close ERT.
SYRIZA in fact told me “we are handing over the station to operate and develop in accordance with our ideas and dreams”.
It was a mutual risk for both SYRIZA and myself, as I was not a member of the party, although I always have been politically left-minded.It turned out to be a success for both sides, I believe…
(2) How does the venture work from day to day? What distinguishes it from, say, other media in Greece. Is it just different editorial aims? Or is there anything structural in its operations that is different?
The main thing is that the so-called “owner” does not interfere with the radio station’s operation, which is a novelty for Greece, where the tradition of interwoven media and political-economic interests has long been the status-quo.
The radio station has substantially contributed to SYRIZA for another reason as well. Its successful course has built a broad audience and its popularity allows it to open doors in the advertising market, which in turn helps its dynamic development.
Recently we also established the Association of Friends of Sto Kokkino, which through subscriptions assists the further development of the company, not only through FM Radio frequencies, but also with videos, images, and internet.
Today, Sto Kokkino broadcasts throughout Greece, on eight cooperative stations (in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Kavala, Rhodes, Lamia, Kalamata, and Heraklion, Crete) and another 20 radio stations in various cities around Greece, so the coverage is now nationwide.
Each Sto Kokkino station is autonomous, and Athens plays the role of coordinator in order to reflect local events, local culture, and of course local social movements.
There are news program coordinators, technical staff, and a program committee, along with a general assembly of employees, all aiming to shape and inform.
Sto Kokkino is a dynamic radio of the left, rather than a radio of SYRIZA.
What interests us is the documentation of our material and the pluralism of our associates and guests.
What distinguishes us from other media is that here people can speak without weighing political cost, without exclusions. The left fights to allow people to express themselves … to enable journalists to freely put their by line on their stories and commentary.
3) How would you characterize Sto Kokkino’s purpose? What are the goals for its future? The English version, called, I think, Sto Kokkino International, is what I can actually read, and I wonder, is its logic and purpose any different than the Greek site and radio offerings?
The international website stokokkino.com is a new service that Sto Kokkino started with news in English, and in a few days we will have Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Russian editions as well.
Our objective is to offer domestic news and information, interviews and analysis so that people abroad can understand what is happening in Greece, without the filter of mainstream domestic and foreign media. The international edition is an attempt to provide programming to other radio stations today, and television stations tomorrow.
Therefore we seek out the support of listeners in our efforts. It is a big challenge to confront a powerful adversary. And we ask for your help and assistance in this.
(4) Does Sto Kokkino have particular editorial policies that guide what you publish, or is it pretty much entirely case by case? Have you had material submitted that you refused? Can you give examples? What kind of material are you most excited and eager to publish? For that matter, who should submit?
There is no line. What do you mean by line? There are just points of view, and our perspective is based on leftist concepts and principles. We are a radio of the left, not a party of the left. Sto Kokkino transmits on the free Greek airwaves and hosts the views of citizens on the right, left, center, and anarchists. The door is tightly shut only for fascists and their opinions. And to the question, “What kind of material you are most interested in publishing?”, the answer is that it doesn’t matter. What interests us are news stories that cry out so loudly that those who don’t listen are either bad professionals or corrupt. We are talking about issues and news in line with journalistic ethics. Truth does not have captains.
5) How is Sto Kokkino funded? Do you foresee changes in its funding? And, more broadly, what is the nature of Sto Kokkino’s connection to Syriza?
SYRIZA has a clear opinion about democracy. Our support does not determine the content of the radio station. It is a very good and honest “employer”. The responsibility lies with the manager, the program committee and of course the workers of the station.
Radio is not a megaphone in the street peddling ideas and opinions. And that is recognized by citizens who trust it. Within eighteen months, Sto Kokkino became the third largest news and information radio station in the country. More than 700,000 people have it as their daily companion. It is a great honor for us and the path we have chosen, and which SYRIZA has agreed to.
6) I was very impressed with the site’s appearance and content, but I was also a bit troubled over the ads – and in particular, surprised to see so many for the National Rifle Association. What do you think of the view that having ads is basically selling access to your readers to corporations which in turn creates pressure to have a site with readers that have lots of disposable income, and who are in the mood to buy stuff even as they read the site contents. In other words, it creates pressure for the site to moderate content to be compatible with people making purchases or otherwise relating positively to ads, rather than content leaving people disinclined to do so. Do you think you will be able to eliminate ads, in time? Or do you feel having them isn’t a problem?
I’m glad you liked it, because we worked very, very hard in a short time. When citizens’ contributions will entirely finance our commitment and our passion, it is natural that we will not need the advertising market. We are betting on it. Because you should know that people here are not volunteers but professionals, paid according to collective agreements that the previous government has abolished, under the terms of the bailout memorandum. But collective labor agreements were never abolished at Sto Kokkino. With regard to advertising, I must tell you that even if an enterprise advertises on our radio or website, if employees there are striking we will not hesitate for a moment to broadcast reports about workers’ demands. It is clean and clear to all sides and it is part of our diversity and pride.
7) As you may be aware, I work with Z Communications, ZNet, and also, recently, on the Opinion Section of Telesur English. I wonder if you have opinions about media from various parts of the world working together, and if so, what you think that might look like, and achieve?
I believe in networks and cooperation between them. Our goal is to create a large portal in many languages. We have already started. Come along with us to create a satellite television news program different from CNN and Euronews. We can do so without egoism, but with a spirit of cooperation, and we know what it takes to do it. You know, too. With a smile and altruism, with love for the news and our differences, we can revolt even in the field of media. What do you say?
8) Of course, we are doing this interview shortly after Syriza’s electoral victory. So, if you would, not so much in your media role, but as a citizen and regarding your own personal views, how did you feel about the victory? What are your hopes and also your fears, for the coming months and years?
We here on this radio station are saying “We are not stepping back, but rather are accelerating.” This radio station played a significant role in the defeat of fear, but also in the resurrection of news stories that were buried by mainstream media. There is no fear. Joy and hope prevails at this time in my city and in my country. Greece is changing. Europe is going to change, for it belongs to us as well, not only to Merkel, Samaras, Rajoy and the bankers, who do not produce anything except pain and tears. I write and I am moved at the same time. Every day since January the 25th we say: What are we living? What a wonderful opportunity this is.
Venceremos definitely is for months now the finale of my radio show.
What do you think …?