The Greek government has taken the unprecedented step of shutting down the public broadcaster ERT and firing its entire staff.
However, the move, which happened on Tuesday evening, drew protests from thousands of people outside ERT’s headquarters in Athens and, according to local reports, has been met with defiance by journalists at the station, who have continued to broadcast programmes on digital frequencies and over the internet.
The government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, himself a former journalist at ERT, described the broadcaster as an “haven of waste” and said it would soon be reopened under a different name but with fewer employees.
Furthermore, its annual budget, derived mostly from receiver licence fees collected through electricity bills, would be slashed from €300 million to €100 million.
The move to shut down ERT has been strongly criticised by the EBU.
In a letter to the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, its president Jean Paul Philipott and DG Ingrid Deltenre urged him “to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision”.
They go on to say: While we recognise the need to make budgetary savings, national broadcasters are more important than ever at times of national difficulty. This is not to say that ERT need be managed less efficiently than a private company. Naturally, all public funds must be spent with the greatest of care.”
The EBU says it is on standby to offer its knowledge of Europe’s public service media to provide the advice, assistance and expertise necessary for ERT to be preserved as a true public broadcaster in the European mould.