Greek court orders immediate reopening of ERT

Major blow to prime minister Samaras who sought to replace national broadcaster with downsized operation

Greece’s highest administrative court ruled last night that the government must reopen the country’s national broadcaster ERT immediately until a replacement station is ready to go on air.

In a major blow to conservative Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, who sought to replace the broadcaster with a downsized operation named Nerit, the council of state ordered the competent ministers to take all the necessary action to return ERT's world, national and regional television and radio signals to the airwaves and to restore its websites.

For the sixth day running, sacked ERT staff continued broadcasting via livestream hosted by the European Broadcasting Union, which has demanded the station reopen.

The ruling came through as the leaders of Greece’s three-way coalition and its finance minister were meeting in a last-ditch attempt to find a compromise on the future on the broadcaster, whose shuttering last week by the anchor party has threatened the viability of the government.

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Speaking after the conclusion of the leaders’ meeting, Pasok head Evangelos Venizelos said that the problem was not ERT, but the functioning of the three-party government.

“No government can operate without a parliamentary majority, but this is what happened with ERT. No one has the right to remove the public broadcaster from the air,” he said, adding that the three leaders would meet again on Wednesday.


Growing rift
Developments before the meeting, on the first anniversary of the elections that brought the government to power, offered little indication that the growing rift between the prime minister and his two coalition partners would be easily bridged, with the junior parties rejecting a compromise from Mr Samaras to allow ERT to continue broadcasting with a minimum of programming and a skeleton news staff during its wholesale restructuring.

Last week, Mr Samaras and ministers from his New Democracy party signed an emergency decree winding up the station, with the immediate loss of more than 2,600 jobs.

Damian Mac Con Uladh

Damian Mac Con Uladh

Damian Mac Con Uladh is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Athens