The background of the Tsipras-Meimarakis debate and the ERT that took it short!

By | May 10, 2023

It was the debate that was discussed the most, but not because of the substance of the debate, but because of the parallel stories that followed.

We are talking about the Tsipras-Meimarakis debate in the 2015 elections. The elderly will remember the then leader of New Democracy, Vangelis Meimarakis, after the end of the debate, coming out on camera and accusing the ERT of playing political games against him, because supposedly! showed it short! But also during the debate he made a move to show his displeasure with regard to the television images. He lowered his body, jokingly commenting that this is how he will look up to Mr. Tsipras. As the leader of SYRIZA he was right up there with Mr. Meimarakis.

I was responsible as a journalist for ERT and for that debate and I was at the center of criticism of Mr. Meimarakis, together with the director Giorgos Sioula who was in charge. Of course, he was following the instructions he had received.

I did not go out then to give clarifications because the accusations seemed ridiculous to me. Today, on the occasion of these notes, I say give the whole background.

So we have and say:

The rules of the debate, both in terms of the debate and in terms of the televised plans, were established by the representatives of the parties.

On behalf of Alexis Tsipras, Blessed Thodoris Michopoulos, an experienced journalist, was responsible, and on behalf of Vangelis Meimarakis, Penelope Gavras. Also an experienced journalist and presenter. The discussions took place between them without the presence of an ERT representative. So I don’t know the details of what exactly was delivered. I only know what was agreed, what was passed on to me and the show was based on what was agreed.

Here a little parenthesis.

Thodoris Michopoulos, before the meeting with the representative of V. Meimarakis, asked to meet with me. “Tell me m…, in his characteristic way, what should I keep in mind? What should I be careful of, you know better than all of us…” I told him the formalities and what in my opinion is best for his leader. Or what will not harm his leader. Even the color of the clothes, because It’s a function of the colors on the stage. But also because of the television coverage. On the other hand, I didn’t get close. If I had, I would have said the same thing there. And let them meet!

In the discussion we had before the show, I made one point. In the set. I repeatedly asked both of them. Double shot i.e. both leads together on the same screen or windows? What did you agree? Windows, was the answer that both gave me. Just before the broadcast began, I yelled at the director in the control room, in the presence of the leaders’ representatives, “George, windows.”

Here a second parenthesis.

In the control room during the discussion, in addition to the technicians, the director and my boss, it was agreed that Penelope Gavras, Nikos Karahalios and the experienced director Giorgos Daoulis would be present on behalf of Mr. Meimarakis. Thodoris Michopoulos and I think Olga Gerovasili were present on behalf of Mr. Tsipras. Or maybe just Theodoris. Most likely.

Until about halfway through the show, everything was going smoothly. Just before the break, Penelope Gavra jumps up and accuses me:

-“George, what you are doing is unacceptable. Too bad, it won’t be like that.”

“What am I doing, Penelope?” She snaps back, trying to watch and tune in to the show at the same time.

-“It is unacceptable”, he continues, “you have approached Meimarakis so that he looks the same as Tsipras!”.

It is true that earlier I had noticed that the two representatives of Mr. Meimarakis received a flurry of phone calls, answered in whispers and seemed irritated.

Nikos Karahalios also joined the accusation dance.

I cannot understand what exactly they accuse me and the director of. The explanation is thrown away and given to me by Michopoulos:

– “There is chaos on social networks because ERT shows Meimarakis and Tsipras at the same height. They get calls from fans and they’re blown away!”

Now that I understand what it is about, I turn around and ask the representatives of the New Democracy leader:

-“Windows, didn’t you agree? The windows are level.” How did it occur to me at that moment and I add: “If I have to put Panagiotis Fasoulas and the (then) Chief Justice Vassiliki Thanos in a windowed show keeping the height proportions, one of the two will not be on the screen!”. And addressing the representative director of the ND leader Giorgos Daoulis, I ask for his approval.

“Isn’t that Jorge? Isn’t that how windows work? Isn’t that level?”

He shook his head and answered me with two words: “Go ahead George…”

I understood that the issue was settled, even if the New Democracy representatives were disgruntled, who would have preferred Mr. Meimarakis to come out a head above Mr. Tsipras. But I was wrong. Shortly we go to a break and when we come back I see Mr. Meimarakis in the air, before beginning his answer to the question he accepted, lowering his body “to be at the same height as Mr. Tsipras” while at the same time! leaving spikes for ERT and laughing wryly!

What happened;

His two representatives at the control during the break informed Mr. Meimarakis about the “party” on social media and the protests of his fans, blaming the ERT. Without, of course, I guess, informing him of the ‘windows’ deal they had made.

After the end of the debate, during his statements, Mr. Meimarakis returned to his accusations against ERT for the plans and his altitude difference with Mr. Tsipras.

I will not pass judgment on the actual presence of Mr. Meimarakis in the debate. I’ll just point out that the briefing he had during the break about his fans’ protests over the shots in the windows had a devastating effect on him, irritated him and it showed through the rest of the debate. He got into the same logic as his fans, he lost his cool and exposed himself with what he did in front of the camera during the show…

His representatives that night broke a cardinal rule. In a televised battle, in any battle, you don’t give the protagonist information that will irritate and demoralize him. Rather, you have to find a way to boost his morale, even if you positively exaggerate his presence thus far.

* Former ERT news director

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