ERT, or the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp, went dark late on June 11th. The decision to pull the plug on all state broadcasting was not unexpected, but most locals doubted that the threat would be carried out.
Some 3,000 staff are affected, and the government has said that employees can now start re-applying for their jobs but that the ‘new’ ERT will need only 1,500 or so jobs.
The government’s media spokesman, himself a former ERT journalist has described the broadcaster as a “haven of waste”, although also said that staff who lost their jobs would receive compensation.
Greece’s government is obliged to trim 15,000 state jobs, out of a total of 600,000, by 2015.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) expressed “profound dismay” on behalf of Europe’s entire public service media community at the developments.
In a letter sent to the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, the President of the EBU, Jean Paul Philippot and the EBU Director General, Ingrid Deltenre urged Samaras “to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision”.
According to the EBU, the existence of public service media and their independence from government lie at the heart of democratic societies, and therefore any far-reaching changes to the public media system should only be decided after an open and inclusive democratic debate in Parliament – and not through a simple agreement between two government ministers.
In the letter, the EBU stresses the importance of public service media as an essential pillar of democratic and pluralistic societies across Europe.
The EBU President and DG go on to highlight that “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 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.