Greece plans scaled-down pubcaster

ERT HQThe Greek government has unveiled plans to open a new, small-scale public broadcaster as criticism of its decision to close down ERT mounts both at home and abroad.

A Greek government spokesman announced plans to create a new service at the end of August with fewer than half the staff of the shut down ERT. The Greek public broadcaster went off air this week, with the loss of 2,700 jobs, although ERT journalists have defied the decision by continuing to broadcast a live web feed from the broadcaster’s occupied studios.

ERT journalists have questioned the timing of the decision to close the broadcaster. The International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank have previously demanded that Greece cut its public sector employees by 2,000 by the end of the summer.

European Broadcasting Union president Jean-Paul Philippot has condemned the overnight shutdown of ERT as “the worst kind of censorship” and “a violent assault on democratic debate which is not acceptable”.

“When the microphone of a journalist is cut off, it’s like the voice of democracy being silenced. This has just been brutally done to 1,300 journalists – brutally in all senses because the Greek government has sent in the police to cut off a broadcaster and stop journalists from doing their job. That is the voice of democracy, the counterweight, a pressure group, that the government, the economic power is gagging,” Philippot told Belgian broadcaster RTBF, of which he is director-general.

Philippot’s comments follow the sending of a letter by EBU director-general Ingrid Deltenre to the Greek prime minister calling on him to revoke the decision.

Greek leftwing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras meanwhile has described the closure of ERT as an “institutional coup”.

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