Shock as Greece closes down state broadcaster
The Greek government has unexpectedly announced the immediate closure of state broadcaster, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), in a move to meet a scheme agreed to by the IMF and European Union following the Greek financial crisis in 2010.
The scheme, aimed at reducing the public sector payroll, calls for 4,000 public sector workers to be made redundant in 2013 and a further 15,000 in 2014.
ERT employees – who amount to 2,650 employees over five television stations, 29 radio stations and several websites – have been given full redundancy and an opportunity to reapply for their jobs at a new state broadcaster which is due to replace ERT in August.
The new broadcaster, as of yet unnamed, will only be hiring 1,200 employees and will have a budget of €100 million. This is in contrast to the €300 million budget of ERT.
The Greek government has stated that the move was prompted by the fact that the broadcaster was severely bloated with operating costs, some three to seven times that of its commercial competitors, while its three television channels combined only draw in half the audience of the average commercial channel.
Controversially, the Greek government has obtained a special “legal action” to implement closure bypassing the cabinet and parliament, where opposition to the move would be expected.
Both junior partners of the three party coalition governing Greece have come out against ERT’s closure.
Programming on ERT’s three channels was due to finish in the early hours of 13th June, however, defiant employees have been broadcasting via the Internet.
The European Commission has said in a statement that the Greek government acted autonomously over the decision. The Commission also highlighted the importance of a state broadcaster, while maintaining that Greece would need to find a sustainable way of running such a broadcaster.