Profile: Greek state broadcaster ERT

By Stella Athanasoulia and Vitaly Shevchenko
BBC Monitoring

image captionThe government abruptly shut down the broadcaster as part of its austerity drive

On 11 June, the government in Athens unexpectedly announced it was suspending the country's Radio and Television Company, abbreviated to ERT in Greek, as part of drastic budget cuts.

The company's roots date back to the 1930s, when Greece's National Radio Foundation was set up.

The many decades of history behind ERT have made it a well-established national institution respected by many.

It began airing television programmes in the 1960s, remaining the country's only TV broadcaster until the advent of private TV channels in 1989. Since then, ERT has undergone several major overhauls to keep up with fierce private competition.

These efforts were not entirely successful, and a fall in the company's ratings in the mid-1990s triggered a long-running debate about its cost and efficiency.

Eighty per cent of the company's funding came from a licence fee included in electricity bills, and some of it was sourced from advertising revenue.

Many Greeks objected to funding ERT through the licence fee, claiming that the company was too unpopular and too expensive. The broadcaster was also criticised for its openly pro-government reporting, especially since the start of the financial crisis in 2009.

image captionAt the time of closing, ERT operated three TV channels and more than a dozen radio stations

At the time of closing, ERT operated three main TV channels and more than a dozen national and local radio stations. ERT World TV catered for the Greek diaspora across the globe.

The company's programming included news as well as factual and entertainment programmes. It claimed to broadcast more highbrow programmes - such as world cinema and documentaries - compared to the generally more light-hearted entertainment offered by its privately-owned rivals.

The company's audience share in 2013 was relatively low at below 20%, with most Greeks preferring commercial broadcasters.

The government's surprise decision to shut down ERT was, however, met with fierce criticism from the public. Even though most agreed that a restructuring and cost-savings were required at the company, its immediate closure was branded "dictatorial" by some.

While most Greeks will continue getting their news and entertainment from private TV and radio stations, those in the east and some islands - where signal coverage is poor - may have to rely on Turkish broadcasters across the border.

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