ERT, Public Broadcaster in Greece, Shut Down Abruptly, Draws Protests

Image: ERT, Public Broadcaster in Greece, Shut Down Abruptly, Draws Protests ERT Greek public radio broadcaster employees hold a general meeting after being shut down by the government on June 11.

Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 07:06 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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In a cost-cutting move, the government of Greece shut down the state broadcaster ERT Tuesday, generating protests from labor unions and the government’s junior partners because they weren’t consulted.

The government shut down the signal for the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, called ERT, according to the New York Times. A government spokesperson, Simos Kedikoglou, described the station as a “modern-day scandal” and a “unique case of lack of transparency and waste.” He said it would reopen as a “modern state organization” with a fraction of its 2,700 employees.

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The move was seen as an effort to show creditors of the beleaguered nation that decisive moves were being made to cut waste.

Shortly after the announcement, thousands of people rushed to the ERT headquarters to show their support. The government announcement said all the workers would be allowed to reapply for positions at the revamped agency.

“ERT belongs to the Greek people. ... It is the only independent, public voice and it has to remain public. ... We condemn the government's sudden decision,” public sector union GSEE said in a statement published on UK Yahoo News.

The situation has been escalating for months as ERT employees created work stoppages to protest restructuring the broadcaster. Under terms of its bailout, Greece must dismiss 4,000 civil servants by the end of the year and 15,000 by the end of 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions said that closing down the broadcaster was a “blow to democracy.”

ERT operates three nationwide television stations, one satellite channel, 17 radio stations, a magazine, and a website. The WSJ reported that government officials say operating costs at ERT are three to seven times higher than at other Greek television stations. Recent efforts to cut costs at ERT helped, with ERT reporting a pretax profit of 57 millions euros in 2011, compared with a 9 million euro loss in 2009.

All laid off employees will receive compensation. Greek households will get a break on their electricity fees, which are increased by about 50 euros a year to pay to fund ERT.

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