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Greece At Impasse Over Broadcaster ERT; Coalition Government Under Threat

By | Friday June 21, 2013 @ 4:27am PDT

Greek officials failed to reach an agreement on the status of public broadcaster ERT on Thursday night, throwing the coalition government into further disarray. Following the abrupt closure of the broadcaster by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on June 11, the Council of State earlier this week ordered ERT back on air until a restructured service is established. But Samaras and his coalition partners, the Socialist PASOK party and the Democratic Left, have failed to reach a compromise. The Left’s Fotis Kouvelis has indicated he might withdraw from the government, which would leave the coalition with only a 3-person majority in the unstable nation’s Parliament. A crisis meeting amongst MPs was underway Friday morning. Samaras said on Thursday that he offered to reinstate about 2,000 of the 2,600 ERT workers who were fired as a result of the closure. PASOK agreed, but the Left balked, according to Reuters. “We will no longer have black screens on state TV channels but we are not going to return to the sinful regime,” Samaras said. ERT has been criticized as a bloated organization whose pre-financial crisis ranks included 100 on-air presenters earning about $650,000 a year, The New York Times reported. Samaras needs to show EU and IMF officials that Greece is making good on its promised objective of slashing several thousands of jobs by the end of next year. The network’s programming includes children’s blocks with … Read More »

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Greek Broadcaster ERT Gets Temporary Reprieve; Government Weakened By Crisis

By | Tuesday June 18, 2013 @ 4:17am PDT

Greece’s Council of State has ruled that while the government had the right to shutter public broadcaster ERT, its signal must be restored until a restructured service is established. After meeting with coalition partners on Monday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras arranged for a new round of talks on Wednesday to discuss putting a temporary version of ERT back on air. In what’s been seen as an attempt to appease Greece’s creditors by slashing more than 2,500 public service jobs, Samaras ordered ERT to cease broadcasting last Tuesday. That set off protests and nationwide strikes, although ERT journalists continued to stream news over the Internet. The Council of State’s ruling went some way towards appeasing ERT workers who applauded the decision which was also welcomed by the European Broadcasting Union. But a question remains over the impact the brouhaha will have on Samaras’ fragile coalition government. Read More »

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Will Greek Broadcaster ERT Get Reprieve?; News Back On, Prime Minister Offers Meeting

By | Friday June 14, 2013 @ 4:17am PDT

A State Council decision on whether to grant a temporary injunction freezing the order to shutter Greek state broadcaster ERT is expected this afternoon, the Kathimerini website reports. The news comes as broadcast chiefs from around Europe have called on Greek authorities to reopen ERT after the government ordered it to cease operations on Tuesday. Over 50 public media CEOs, directors general and presidents including the BBC’s Tony Hall and leaders of Danish broadcaster DR, France’s France Télévisions, Germany’s ARD and ZDF, Italy’s RAI and Spain’s RTVE, have condemned ERT’s closure as “undemocratic and unprofessional.” (The station’s news channel NET was back on air for satellite subscribers late on Thursday, however, as the European Broadcasting Union implemented a workaround to take the feed from a Thessaloniki studio and retransmit it via the EBU’s Athens earth station.)

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has taken a step towards quelling the situation by inviting two left-wing junior coalition parties opposed to the shutdown to talks next Monday, Reuters reports. A compromise may emerge, but a government official told the news agency that Samaras is not expected to reverse his decision to launch a leaner state broadcaster in late summer. A source also told Reuters that cash-strapped Athens was under pressure to show EU and IMF inspectors that it had a plan to fire 2,000 public employees, and ERT was the only option available. Read More »

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Greece Shuts Down Public Broadcaster ERT, But Journalists Keep Streaming News

By | Wednesday June 12, 2013 @ 1:40am PDT

In a surprise move, the Greek government abruptly closed public broadcaster ERT on Tuesday. According to the network, 2,656 employees have been laid off as a result. TV screens went dark in the evening, but journalists from the broadcaster remained defiant, continuing to stream live news programming throughout the night as protesters gathered in front of ERT’s Athens headquarters. A live stream was still running this morning on the ERT website.

According to Greek daily Ekathimerini, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou on Tuesday called ERT a source of “waste” and said “The Greek people are paying for ERT, which has three times, even eight times, as much staff as it needs. It has ample assets, which have remained unused.” Greek households pay a license fee of about $6 through their monthly electricity bills. As long as the broadcaster remains off air, those payments will cease. Greece reportedly plans a leaner operation to replace ERT; Kedikoglou referred to a “modern broadcasting service” but did not provide details. The network’s programming included children’s blocks, culture shows and documentaries, foreign programming, soaps and series like Downton Abbey. The European Broadcasting Union expressed its “profound dismay” at the closure and sent a letter to Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, urging him “to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision.” Greece is in the throes of severe austerity … Read More »

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