Greece: shutting down the public broadcaster is the last thing to do in a crisis

The CBA believes that in times of crisis, Public Service Broadcasting is even more of a ‘need to have’ than a ‘nice to have’ – a key element of any democratic society which must be protected.

There has been condemnation around Europe, and worldwide, at the Greek government’s shock decision to close the public broadcaster ERT with immediate effect.

The government announced the closure of all state-run broadcasts and that it would lay off over 2,600 staff as part of austerity measures demanded by the country’s bailout creditors. By the evening of 11 June, just hours after the announcement, The Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation’s TV channels and radio were pulled off air.

Sally-Ann Wilson, Secretary-General of the CBA said: “We understand that in times of austerity due consideration should be given to how all public bodies are run and operated, but just closing down a PSB within hours is unacceptable and sets a very dangerous precedent.

She added: “It is at this time that the people of Greece have most need of a public broadcaster to keep them informed and provide an independent media space for sharing and debating the crisis affecting Greece and its economy. We urge the Greek government to reverse this decision and use the opportunity to create, through democratic means, an effective and efficient public broadcaster.”

Today saw thousands of media workers and supporters protest outside the ERT’s headquarters in Athens. Greek TV journalists are reportedly camped in the building to keep the broadcaster on air. The European Broadcasting Union urged the Greek government to rethink its decision, and, it was reported in the Guardian, has helped set up a satellite news-gathering  operation in ERT’s car park, to join Greek journalists using equipment yet to be confiscated and efforts to stream transmission online.

In addition to local action, protests are planned in London and Paris this evening. It could be argued that the widespread backlash to the decision is a strong indication of the importance of public service media to the citizens of Greece, and elsewhere for that matter.

The Greek government has branded the broadcaster a “haven of waste”, and as one local commentator Phillip Ammermann put it: “Although I have written about the need to reform ERT, it is hard to think of a more absurd way of dealing with things.”

However the government said it plans to relaunch a new slimmed down broadcaster, possibly in August, and sacked staff can reapply for their jobs.  But it has been reported that the bill to create a new broadcaster does not yet exist.

Image: The broadcaster’s official twitter feed is now filled with protest-organising messages, such as this one announcing the assembly of a music ensemble for #OccupyERT

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