ATHENS – The 66-year-long history and significance of the BBC’s Greek Service was presented at a conference held on Friday at Panteion University in Athens, which was co-organized by the Documentation & Study of the History of the Greek Press research unit (ETMIET) and the Research Centre for Modern History (KENI) of Panteion University.
The conference, titled “National Audiovisual Memory and the BBC Greek Service, 1939-2005” heard academics, journalists, Greek and other BBC affiliates describe the effect of the news service on society during turbulent times in history and its contribution to the country’s political, historical timeline.
The participants outlined the service’s widely acclaimed paradigm of journalism ethics, reflected in how merely listening to the BBC Greek Service while Greece was occupied by Nazi Germany (1941-1944) was a punishable offence, and many people were reportedly executed in Greece on this charge alone.
For the BBC at that time the challenge was to decide to air not only the victories of the Allied Forces but also the advances of the Axis Forces, a challenge won by broadcasting news stories from all sides involved in World War II, despite risking a negative effect on the morale of allied soldiers.
“This is London”, is the legendary first Greek sentence of the BBC’s Greek Service, broadcast in late September 1939, only a few days after the declaration of World War II.
It ran parallel to the country’s history until December 2005, when the BBC World Service, funded by the British Foreign Office, decided to stop it, as Greece’s audiences, geopolitical position and media freedom within the country itself did not justify its continued operation.
Throughout the years of the Cold War, the Cyprus issue, the military junta in Greece and all the later years, one of the most fundamental principles of the BBC Statute was kept intact: that national interests are best served when the public is informed as objectively and thoroughly as is feasible, based on the objectivity of the news source which informs it. Public opinion, therefore, becomes more spherical, complete, allowing citizens to reach a better assessment for the benefit of their country.
The entire digitized archive of the BBC Greek Service is now held by the Hellenic Parliament.