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The decision of the National Broadcasting Council to fine a 94 FM broadcast is homophobic.

The FCC’s blemish

“Why did the only gay show go silent?”
(“Epoch”, 30/01/05)

The news is more or less well known, as it passed in the margins of the daily news: at its meeting of 21 December 2004, the National Radio Broadcasting Council dealt with the nightly show “Athens Gay and Lesbian Radio Show” of the radio station 94 Contact FM of the Municipal Radio Enterprise of the Municipality of Heraklion, considered it “substandard” and decided to impose a fine of 5,000 euros on the station.

Which is shown

It is certainly a different decision from the others. A first observation concerns the fact that this choice by the ERC is not sufficiently explained, as its ‘legal basis’ is limited to the recitation of some general constitutional and legal principles. In particular, the decision refers to Article 15 para. 2 of the Constitution, which entrusts the State with the direct control of radio and television and the NCR with the imposition of administrative sanctions in order to ensure ‘the quality of programmes’. References are made to the FCC’s Regulation and relevant laws which make electronic media responsible for the ‘quality of their programming’ and the ‘promotion of culture’.

The “Explanatory Memorandum” of the decision, which reproduces without any commentary transcripts of the broadcast, is reproduced below. In those extracts, the producer of the programme, Maria Cyber, is heard to convey, inter alia, the desire of her listeners to meet people of the same or opposite sex. “It should be noted,” this peculiar “Reasoning” concludes, “that before and after the above-mentioned broadcast, advertisements were made by Bar X for homosexuals and lesbians, as well as for condoms X. This is undoubtedly a degraded broadcast, which does not meet the quality required by the aforementioned Article of the Constitution. It is appropriate to impose a fine for this diversion.

Homosexuality as a criminal offence

Comments are probably unnecessary. Is this a degraded show (and “arguably”?) or is it (indeed arguably) an unjustified verdict?
It is possible that the members of the ERC, of known puritanical views, consider the transcripts of the broadcast quoted in their decision to be highly damning, so that they believe that their reaction was self-evident and that they do not have to substantiate it. If the assumption is correct, then the mere fact that the programme is (also) addressed to homosexuals/ homosexuals constitutes self-evident evidence of “guilt” according to the ERC. This guilt is punished by the competent authority by imposing a ‘purgatory’ fine.

In this climate, the position of the ERC, according to which the transmission of an advertisement for condoms constitutes an explicit argument for the “degraded quality” of a broadcast, proves to be extremely revealing. At a time when the dissemination of condom use has been a key concern of the AIDS campaign even in schools, the FCC’s annoyance at a condom advertisement seems outrageous to say the least. Again, the context, i.e. the alleged ‘particular’ sexual orientation of the show’s listeners is the legitimizing background for such an extremely obscurantist position.

This is not, of course, the first time that this authority has revealed its homophobic leanings. The echoes of the scandal that erupted in November 2003, when the FCC made a kiss between two men a major television (and therefore national) scandal, remain fresh. We need only refer to the well-remembered definition of homosexuality attempted at the time by its chairman Ioannis Laskaridis (“a peculiarity that is outside the productive process of life”) to understand the blatant homophobia of the members of the FCC – at least the majority of them.

“Cleansing” a la ESR

For some time now, the ERC has been engaged in a peculiar struggle to “clean up” television programmes: in its logic, profanity and sexual innuendos constitute a priori irrefutable evidence of the “degradation” of the quality of a programme and fines have become a basic tool for the treatment of the “problem”, i.e. for the qualitative upgrading of the entertainment provided by the media. Although this moralistic approach to the issue raises much debate anyway, Maria Cyber’s show does not fall into this category. The “downgrading” results simply from the fact that the one-of-a-kind “Athens Gay and Lesbian Radio Show” claims an identity which, according to the ERC, is a self-evident “scandal”. On the contrary, always according to the ERC, there is no problem when the archbishop identifies homosexuality with “cousinhood”, when Metropolitan Kallinikos refers to “partisans” or when TV stars like Al. Kouia erupt before the camera in an openly racist homophobic rant.

As it seems, the caricatured stereotypical representations of homosexuals, so common in television entertainment and information programmes, constitute, according to the competent authority, the only legitimate (pedagogical?) reference to homosexuality. Apart from everything else, it is certain that this attitude, even if it reflects dominant distortions, is in flagrant contradiction with the provisions of Law 3304 (“Implementation of the principle of equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, religious or other beliefs, disability, age or sexual orientation”) recently passed by the Parliament (18/01/2005).

The issue was discussed at length at a press conference organised last week by homosexual and human rights groups, which was attended by representatives of a wide political spectrum. However, the problem remains: the programme was frozen after the fine was imposed and at the time of writing the station had not yet clarified its position on the future.

We contacted Maria Cyber a few days ago to find out whether the ESR’s fine will eventually mean the cancellation of her show. She was not yet in a position to know, as the relevant decision of the City Council was postponed from one Thursday (the day of the show) to another. She informed us that the show started eleven years ago and that she herself took over the show five years ago. As for the content of the “Athens Gay and Lesbian Radio Show”, Maria Cyber explained that it is an informative programme, with interviews, news, introductions, music and so on.

In response to our question about whether the show had suffered homophobic attacks in the past, the producer said that the only relevant actions were limited to some abusive slogans on the walls of the station and stressed that, as shown by the calls and messages the show received, its audience was large, and that its audience included many heterosexuals. In her opinion, which we share, it is outrageously unfair to blame the show for enabling lonely people to meet other, equally lonely, people.

Behold the “evidence”

The following quote is part of the transcripts of the “Athens Gay and Lesbian Radio Show”, which, without comment, serve as the “reasoning” of the FCC’s condemnation decision. Maria Cyber responds here to the threatening message of a listener who declares himself a Nazi. We wonder what exactly bothered the ERC to include her response in the “evidence” of the crime:
“Maria Cyber (reading and commenting on listener’s message): ‘One day, she says, we’re going to bulldoze it. Nazism lives. That’s the message they’re sending now. I imagine the person who wrote it is a man. I hope he is having a very, very good time, is happy with his life and lets the rest of us have a good time. And that he has no hard feelings for anyone on this planet and, if he wants to go and punish someone, he should think about his pocket, think about whether he has the chick he likes next to him. In general, let him worry about being him a little better instead of attacking anyone. We also dedicate this song to him and hope he enjoys our music after listening to our show. And tell us his name so we can dedicate it to him personally. As for whether Nazism lives, we know and see it every day. Of course it lives, and Nazism lives and authoritarianism lives and all the evils on this planet live. The good does not live. And we just decided, one last comment, we invite him, he’s welcome here on the show to give him a microphone and to develop, not to pay for the text messages, to tell us his views here, to have a nice chat, to treat himself to a drink.”