ERT closure: Greek parties urge change of course

 

Viewers watched the state TV channel go black

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Greek political parties and unions have urged the government to reverse its surprise decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT - with the loss of nearly 2,700 jobs.

The measure is designed to help Greece meet its debt bailout obligations.

Most of the broadcaster's output has been taken off-air, although shortwave radio and internet broadcasts continue.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stood by his move, describing ERT as "the symbol of waste and lack of transparency".

In a speech to business leaders on Wednesday night, the conservative premier added: "We are not closing down public radio and television. In fact, it is only now that we are going to get proper public radio and television."

'Illegal' move

Opposition leader Alexis Tsipras earlier urged President Carolos Papoulias to cancel an executive order closing ERT.

Protest rallies are being held in support of the broadcaster's staff, with thousands rallying outside ERT's headquarters in the capital Athens, and unions have called a general strike.

Journalists' unions have called a 24-hour strike across Greece's broadcasters - except for those ERT stations airing rogue broadcasts maintained by workers who have refused to leave their posts.

Press reaction

Pro-government newspaper To Vima website: "Like it has done in the past, the government is calling this an 'emergency' so that it can get on with shutting down public institutions, in this case ERT."

Editorial in right-of-centre, pro-government newspaper To Ethnos: "The taking of state TV channels off the air last night has caused a shock and, emotions apart, it has revealed in the most cruel way that black screens are not the solution... There is no doubt that ERT needs a radical and bold makeover, and savings in people and assets. But this is totally different from a sudden shutting down of a public entity with so much history."

Editorial in left-of-centre, pro-opposition newspaper I Avgi: "Samaras' choice culturally isolates the country from its European surroundings and abandons the crucial domain of information to the private capital."

Editorial in right-of-centre, pro-government newspaper I Kathimerini: "The government's decision to shut down and reorganise ERT is right. This is the first time that the government finds political courage to close down a public organisation which costs way too much and is a burden for the Greek taxpayer."

Mr Tsipras described the closure as "illegal", adding: "Many times the word 'coup' is used as an exaggeration. In this case, it is not an exaggeration."

The decision to close down ERT has also put strain on the country's governing coalition.

"We absolutely disagree with the government's particular decisions and management," the socialist Pasok party, a coalition member, said in a statement. "We will not vote in favour of the law validating this legislative act."

The Democratic Left, another coalition partner, said restructuring ERT was necessary but should have taken place without shutting it.

The move has also been condemned by the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos, who said the state broadcaster had been "violently" closed and that its employees were being "sacrificed" to pay for decades of wasteful administration.

The Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union expressed "profound dismay" at the closure in a letter to Mr Samaras, calling on him to reverse the decision.

The head of ERT's foreign desk, Odin Linardatou, said the announcement had taken journalists by surprise.

"We are very shocked, we are angry," she told the BBC's Newshour programme. "What I cannot accept in a democracy is that Greece will not have a public broadcaster."

'Incredible extravagance'

The government says ERT was a huge drain on public resources, and will reopen at a later date under a new format and with considerably fewer staff.

Protesters outside ERT in Athens (11 June 2013) Thousands of protesters gathered outside ERT's headquarters in Athens

All 2,655 employees will be compensated and allowed to apply for jobs at the revamped organisation.

"ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told a news conference.

The announcement came after months of strikes by ERT employees in opposition to plans to restructure the broadcaster.

Athens has pledged to cut thousands of public-sector jobs as part of agreements under which it receives billions of euros in rescue loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

ERT, which began broadcasting in 1938, is funded by a direct payment of 4.30 euros (£3.80; $6) added monthly to electricity bills.

It ran three domestic TV channels, four national radio stations, as well regional radio stations and an external service, Voice of Greece.

 

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  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 32.

    Although i feel for the people who, to no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, i believe the government has done the right thing.
    If a business has continual operating cost's higher than revenues, it must cut or close.
    When government learn's to run more like a business the pain will end.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 18.

    Most Greeks are pro-reform when it comes to the state TV (5 TV channels, 20 odd radio channels). Everyone wants the cronies and the fat cats to be thrown out and the TV to operate in an efficient and profitable manner.

    The problem with yesterday's shutdown is in the way it was dictated by the government, using "extraordinary measures", basically forcing the shutdown without prior discussion.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 15.

    Private compamies make a loss.
    ERT is a public company, but not stae-controlled The private ones follow the Govnt's line
    Neede to be streamlined, but the whole idea of sacking people to save banks is wrong/unethical and in the end will cause more problems. The IMF, mistaken though it admits, still wants the same disasterous programme. Sackings and cutting salaries caused the recession.

 
 

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