Thousands of Greek showing solidarity outside the ERT building in Athens
“No Signal.” That was the last message to be broadcast on June 11 at 11:00 PM (local time) by the Greek public broadcasting network ERT. Broadcasting has ended. The radical – and unprecedented – measure was taken without forewarning just as the leaders of Greece’s “Troika” creditors (EU-ECB-IMF) are in Athens.
Public broadcasting belongs to the many government entities that were to be restructured or merged under the Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and its lenders. According to the unions, in closing ERT, the government is meeting the objective imposed on it by Greece’s creditors – eliminating 2,000 public-sector jobs by the end of June – with one stroke of the pen. It is justifying its decision by citing low ratings for the public radio stations and television channels, and also their lack of financial resources, in particular from advertising.
The government did say that the public entity would re-open someday in another form, with a drastically reduced workforce. Government spokesman Simos Kédikoglou revealed the details of a proposed law on the creation of a “new Greek radio, Internet, and television” to be called Nerit S.A. and which would begin operation by the end of August, with 1,200 employees. In the meantime, the current workforce of 2,656 will receive compensation and will be allowed to apply for jobs with the new company.
“They’re saying they’ll re-open in September. But in Greece, nothing’s more permanent than ‘temporary’,” ERT radio General Manager Dimitris Papadimitriou observed.
An explosive economic measure
The unions have called on Greeks to take to the streets to protest the shutdown. The protest is supported by certain personalities in Greek public life who are dependent on Greece’s public broadcasting – starting with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, Primate of the Greek Church, who immediately joined the movement along with the majority of the priests. “It has to be understood that only public television and radio broadcast the Mass on Sunday morning, every day of Holy Week, the week before Easter, at Christmas and on August 15 (the feast of the Dormition or Assumption). It provided hope and comfort for those among the faithful who are unable to go to church, as well as to Greeks living abroad. Remember that there are as many Greeks abroad as in Greece itself, and the Mass broadcast was a little piece of Greece for them,” the Archbishop said.
Orthodox Catholicism is the state religion in Greece, and 90% of the country’s population, according to official figures, is Orthodox. Religious broadcasts are carried on all four public channels, including the international one.
Greeks in Venezuela, the USA, and Japan called with messages of support for the personnel. One of them said on the air, just before programming was shut down, that the national public network was the only way for him not to forget the language of his native country and be able to observe religious celebrations in his home.
Several hundred persons were still assembled late Wednesday afternoon in front of ERT’s headquarters in Athens’s northeastern suburbs. A solidarity concert was planned for Wednesday evening.
Sophie Rosenzweig / ARTE Journal
Translated by SnakeArbusto
Status of Greek public broadcasting:
|ERT in figuresIts history goes back to the 1950s. With 35 broadcasting locations, ERT reaches the most remote corners of the Greek Aegean islands and employs nearly 2,700 persons, including some 680 journalists and 200 musicians and singers.ERT, via its international Greek-language radio frequency and the ERT World channel, provides a vital link to a country whose language is spoken by more than seven million diaspora Greeks scattered around the world from Egypt to Australia and including the United States.|
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ERT: On the Edge:
Published: Wed. Jun 12 12:00:00 CEST 2013