Ekathimerini reports that the process was originally due two decades ago and has now come to be marked by political infighting.
It adds that the licences are being contested by eight groups, with opening bids starting at €3 million.
Significantly, six of the eight bidders have raised objections about the process and one long-established TV channel – Mega, which was launched in 1989 – has been eliminated from the contest over outstanding debts.
Ever since private broadcasting appeared in Greece channels have been allowed to operate on provisional licences renewed 15 times since 1995.
However, critics have said the new auction, ostensibly being held to clean up the industry, is merely a ploy by the prime minister to replace TV station owners critical of his party (Syriza) with others more favourably disposed to it.
Representatives of the eight bidders are apparently locked in an office at the ministry of communications in Athens making their cases to secure licences. The process is expected to take two days.
An unnamed TV executive commented: “Frankly, this whole process is a mess and we have real concern that it’s preventing free competition in the private sector. It’s another unfortunate example of the government using extraordinary measures to take more control of the country’s media.”