Greek coalition parties to meet in move to defuse ERT broadcasting crisis
PM Samaras shows no sign of bowing to junior partner’s demands to reopen national broadcaster
Supporters of the employees of Greek state broadcaster ERT attend a concert outside its headquarters in Athens yesterday. Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras yesterday dismissed talk of an early election over the abrupt closure of the state broadcaster. Photograph: Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis
The leaders of Greece’s three-party coalition are expected to meet in Athens today for talks aimed at defusing the crisis triggered by last week’s shock shutdown of the national broadcaster, ERT, that threatens the survival of the government.
Yesterday, Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras offered no sign that he would reopen the station pending its reform, which his junior coalition partners are demanding. Under Mr Samaras’s plan, a downsized replacement to ERT would be on air by the end of the summer.
“The ERT issue raised the question of whether we’ll dare to make the reforms the country needs or whether we’ll just be dragged into making reforms imposed from abroad,” Mr Samaras told a conference of his New Democracy party.
Last night, sacked journalists at ERT’s Athens and Thessaloniki television studios and at regional radio stations continued broadcasting, for the fifth day running, their output transmitted via livestream by the European Broadcasting Union.
Yesterday ERT, whose pirate signal was also broadcast for a number of days via satellite with the assistance of the EBU, tweeted that the Israel-based owner of the satellite removed the signal following a request from the Greek government.
On Friday, EBU head Jean-Paul Philippot handed Greece’s finance minister a petition signed by 55 European public broadcast service chiefs calling for ERT’s signal to be restored immediately.
“This undemocratic and unprofessional action of the Greek government undermines the existence of public service media in Greece and its independence from the government,” said the petition. Signatories included Noel Curran of RTÉ and Pól Ó Gallchóir of TG4.
Freed from government control, ERT has undergone a cultural transformation that few could have predicted before last week.
In place of news shows dominated by MPs and journalists regurgitating press releases from parties or ministries are critical discussions on the nature of public broadcasting in Greece and studio discussions with NGOs, civil society and political initiatives which were previously a rare sight on the country’s TV stations.
The broadcasts are proving extremely popular.