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Greek shareholder accountability law against EU rules

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By Leo Gasteen

A Greek law allowing minor shareholders of television companies to be penalised for improper content violates European Union principles, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled. 

The ruling of 25 October 2010 follows a dispute between Idrima Tipou and the Greek National Radio and Television Council, regarding the imposition of fines amounting to USD 41 thousand on minority shareholders.

The legislation was written at a time when numerous journalists held 2.5 per cent stakes in a television company. The ECJ noted that not all shareholders were necessarily journalists, thus the law governing accountability of shareholders was void. 

It concluded that Greek law needs to use more appropriate penalties at its disposal, including suspending broadcasting or revoking the operating license of a TV channel that violates professional conduct.

Background

The Greek National Radio and Television Council in 2001 levied a fine of what now amounts to about USD 41 thousand against minority shareholders of the Nea Tileorasi Company, which owns the Star Channel television station. 

Idrima Tipou is a shareholder of Nea Tileorasi AE, a public limited company which owns Star Channel. In 2001 the Greek Minister for the Press and Mass Media imposed a fine of nearly EUR 30 thousand for misconduct during a news programme on the 14th February 2000.

The ministry accused the entertainment network, in the court's words, of failing to "respect the character, honour, reputation, family life and presumption of innocence" of two singers and a fashion designer during news broadcasting in 2000.

Certain Greek judges sided with Idrima Tipou, which owned a 5 per cent stake in Nea Tileorasi, in saying that the law improperly makes shareholders liable for a company debt.

 The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice first interpreted EU law as allowing shareholders to be held liable for a fine imposed on their company. The court then examined the Greek legislation, which allows fines against shareholders in a TV station if they have at least a 2.5 per cent stake in it. (The law also limits shareholding by any single entity to 25 per cent).

European Court of Justice - Justice and Application - case C81/09 Full text

 

 


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