"Eight out of 10 programs on Greek television are imported, and of these the majority is American. This must change. Why, for example, shouldn't the Greeks enjoy a sample of Soviet entertainment on TV?"
These are the words of George Romaios, who was appointed general director of Greek Radio and Television (ERT) after Andreas Papandreou's Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok) won an electoral mandate Oct. 18.
The Socialists' plan for change has two broad aims: to reorganize and upgrade television, doing away with Army control, and to continue the effort begun by the New Democracy administration of Constantine Karamanlis in 1974 to boost the Army's preparedness and public image.
In their first week in power, the Socialists made two radical gestures toward the arts in general and television and radio in particular. They revoked censorship laws dating from the military dictatorship of Gen. John Metaxas in the 1930s and made a clean sweep of all top posts in TV and radio.
Vassilis Vassilikos, the author of "Z," is ERT's new deputy director under Romaios -- who was editor of the pro-Pasok newspaper Vima.
Spawned during the colonels' dictatorship of 1967-1974, Greece's two television channels -- both state-controlled and one of them, the colonels' special creation, run from within the Army -- lurched through the conservative administrations of the New Democracy party that followed with only cosmetic changes in programming and personnel.
""What we are trying to do," said Romaios, "is change the mentality that says, 'What is good for the party, is good television.' We want to create a nonpartisan TV . . . , one that does not act as an apoliticizing soporific, but that makes the Greeks think critically."
"Foreign policy or the economy are naturally vital issues, but true change will be reflected on TV," said Vassilikos, whose own work was subject to an unofficial television blackout under New Democracy.
The two men's first step is to change Yened, the military-run channel that started as an information service for the Army in 1968, into civilian-run Channel ERT 2.
The junta-created Yened immediately developed into a commercial channel and the dictatorship's main propaganda arm. After the return to democracy, Yened continued as a medium for such imported staples as "Peyton Place" and "Buck Rogers," locally made soap operas and programs about the military with such titles as "The Skies Are Yours," and "Our Army."
The planned restructuring of Greek television is not designed to keep the Army out altogether. The Army will still be represented in the programming of the "educational and informational" channel.
This decision reflects the Papandreou government's concern with improving the Army's public image, still not free of the tarnish from the seven-year dictatorship. The Army's continued role also reflects a lively interest on the part of the average Greek in national defense, reflecting what is widely felt here to be a military threat from Turkey.
"We are going to retain special programs about the Army or related subjects such as the arms industry. These will in no way serve up military propaganda. Their purpose will be to inform," Romaios said. "We hope to promote a reconciliation between the people and the Army."
Yened's dismantling will be accompanied by a fundamental revision of programming designed to let the Socialists' "wind of change" blow through the national TV archives. This process, expected to be slow, has already started with the axing of many low-quality programs and plans to revamp others and bring some order to the current bombardment of advertising.
It will also involve the legal extrication of ERT from contracts with independent commercial producers who have virtually monopolized production of locally made programs. Representatives of ERT have already gone shopping for programs in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries.
"The American programs that take up most of Greek TV time present the Greeks with a one-sided model of a way of life that is totally foreign to them," Romaios said.
"We have a lot to learn technically from the Americans, particularly in the area of news programs, where they present a wealth of live material, while ours are slow and static," Vassilikos added. "But Greece is burdened by myths, created for tourist consumption -- the Zorba myth of virility for example, or the myth of philoxenia hospitality . Our job is to demythify it."