Employees at Greece’s national broadcaster ERT have vowed to remain on air after the government’s unexpected announcement that it was shutting its international, national and regional television and radio stations at midnight last night, until further notice.
Describing ERT as a “characteristic case of a unique lack of transparency and unbelievable waste”, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the station, which employs 2,656 people, would reopen at an unspecified later date, with a much smaller workforce.
He said that ERT, partly funded with €300 million in licence fees a year, cost “three to seven times as much as other TV stations and [had] four to six times the personnel”.
According to Nielsen research, ERT’s three television stations have a combined share of 10 per cent of viewers, half that of the country’s biggest private station.
Local media last night suggested the closure could be for at least three months, with about 1,000 staff expected to be taken into the new company. Current employees will be permitted to reapply for their jobs.
Commitment to troika
The redundancies at the station will help the government meet its commitment to the EU-ECB-IMF troika, which arrived in Athens on Monday for a scheduled review, to dismiss 2,000 people from the wider public sector by the end of July.
But the move has opened up divisions within the three-party coalition, with the junior partners voicing their opposition to the closure. Pasok’s and Democratic Left’s four ministers were the only cabinet members not to sign the decree enabling the closure.
Speaking outside ERT's headquarters, where a large crowd gathered in support of the station last night, the leader of the main opposition Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, condemned the closure as a "coup" against Greeks.
Riot police were also on standby near the complex.
ERT has for years suffered from intense state interference, with successive governments stacking the station with political appointees and favourites. Last night, some journalists spoke openly on air about coming under pressure from the government to invite ministers on to programmes.