Greece’s new state television channel began airing news programs yesterday, more than two months after the government’s abrupt closure of state broadcaster ERT drew international condemnation and triggered an acute political crisis.
The move came as the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the world’s largest association of public broadcasters, halted the relay of programs that the sacked workers of the now defunct ERT have been producing since the closure. Since ERT was shuttered on June 11, ERT workers have taken over the company’s building in Athens and produced 24-hour programing that the EBU has been streaming by satellite and the Internet.
Greece’s conservative-led government cited the need to cut costs due to the country’s severe financial crisis when it abruptly closed ERT and fired all 2,700 staff. The ensuing outcry led to a small left-wing party withdrawing from the country’s fragile three-party governing coalition, leaving the government with a tiny majority in parliament.
The EBU announced earlier this week that it would halt its streaming of those programs yesterday morning because ERT’s interim successor was to begin news programing. So far, a temporary state broadcaster set up after ERT’s closure had been airing mainly documentaries and old Greek movies.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the EBU said it “believes that independent public service media is indispensable for democracies, culture and societies’’ and that when ERT was abruptly shut down, it “felt it had no option but to immediately take action to prevent Greek screens from remaining black, by carrying the satellite signal being produced by former ERT staff and streaming it on our Web site.’’
As a result, it committed to helping out until a basic public service media output had been established.
“This pledge has been honored,’’ EBU said.
ERT unionists vowed the programing by the sacked workers would continue via the Internet.