Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Greek state TV, radio go off the air

AP June 12, 2013, 8:49 am

The European Broadcasting Union has urged Greece to backtrack on closing the public broadcaster ERT.

AP © The European Broadcasting Union has urged Greece to backtrack on closing the public broadcaster ERT.

    Greek state TV and radio have been gradually pulled off the air, hours after the government said it would temporarily close all state-run broadcasts and lay off about 2500 workers.

    The surprise moves are part of a cost-cutting drive demanded by the bailed-out country's international creditors.

    The conservative-led government says the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp, or ERT, will reopen "as soon as possible" with a new, smaller workforce.

    It wasn't immediately clear how long that would take, and whether all stations would reopen.

    "Congratulations to the Greek government," newsreader Antonis Alafogiorgos said toward the end of ERT's main TV live broadcast.

    "This is a blow to democracy," he added, as thousands of media workers and supporters protested the closure outside the company's headquarters in Athens.

    The move heralds the first direct public-sector layoffs in more than three years of painful austerity, which have already cost nearly 1 million private sector jobs.

    The announcement widened cracks in the year-old governing coalition, with both minority partners condemning the corporation's suspension, while international journalists' associations expressed dismay.

    ERT TV and radio started to be yanked off the air in several parts of the country around 11 pm (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, about an hour before the government said all signals would go dead, although satellite broadcasts continued.

    A Finance Ministry statement said ERT has been formally disbanded, and authorities would "secure" the corporation's facilities.

    Riot police deployed outside ERT buildings in several parts of Greece, but no clashes were reported.

    Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou - a former state TV journalist - described ERT as a "haven of waste" and says its 2,500 employees will be compensated.

    Debt-stifled Greece has depended on rescue loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010.

    In exchange, it imposed deeply-resented income cuts and tax hikes, which exacerbated a crippling recession and forced tens of thousands of businesses to close, sending unemployment to a record of 27 per cent.

    As part of the bailout agreement, Greece's government pledged to cut 15,000 state jobs by 2015, out of a total of about 600,000.

    Greek state TV, radio go off the air - The West Australian