[Ed. Note]: The unilateral decision by the Greek Prime Minister and his New Democracy Party to close down the Greek public television and radio network has created a firestorm of protest by citizens and a rare occasion for cooperation among the normally feuding Left and Center-Left political parties. We have invited a university student living in Athens to describe and analyze these unfolding events.
On Tuesday afternoon (11th June), the government’s spokesperson in a 3 minute address to the media announced that the Hellenic Radio and Television (ERT), together with everything belonging to the company (radio, orchestras, and archives) would be shut down.
3000 employees were laid off (they were given an unpaid suspension until the government decides to form a new TV company with far fewer personnel). By government decree ERT had to stop broadcasting by midnight of the same day.
Journalists, private media employees, NGO’s and citizens reacted against the decision and immediately gathered outside the ERT Headquarters. Private television journalists went on a two-day strike, and fresh strikes in the public and private sector, joined by public commuters, were called for 13th June.
ERT journalists decided to keep broadcasting, but the government terminated the transmission by shutting down the antennas. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Services) cyber-attacks against sites and news blogs opposing the government are also reported.
The most important thing we noticed (apart from the 3000 unemployed people) is the way this decision was taken. The government consists of three parties: New Democracy (conservatives) PASOK (socialists) and the Democratic Left. Both the Socialists and the Democratic Left publicly rejected the decision. The decision took the form of an Act of Legislative Content (which can be used only for emergency situations, and thus needs no immediate ratification by the parliament,therefore a convenient way to temporarily avoid democratic institutions).
In fact, there was no prior understanding among the government partners, and the parliamentary New Democratic minority alone decided to scrap one of Greece’s major cultural institutions.
The question is immediate: WHY? The probable reason is collusion between the conservatives and the oligarchs owning private media. For example, ERT had the rights to broadcast football games and concerts which bring revenues from advertisements, coveted by the oligarchs that supported New Democracy. The ERT Archive, owning valuable historical footage from the beginning of the last century, would possibly come under private oligarchic control.
SYRIZA’s president Alexis Tsipras was present at the gatherings in ERT’s HQ, and stayed there till late in the night. He also visited ET3, ERT’s branch in Northern Greece.
It is reported that the closure of ERT was a staunch position of the Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras. He addressed the public on Wednesday, reiterating his position on ERT, and equating the public outcry to a reactionary practice aiming at maintaining the journalists’ financial privileges. (Perhaps Mr. Samaras is striving to emulate his Turkish counterpart’s obsession with destroying a public park in Istanbul?)
The government structure is shaking, and the opposition strives to step in. Rumours about fresh elections are being heard as well. A trilateral meeting of a meeting of the government partners is arranged for Monday, after being demanded by the Socialists and the Democratic Left.
We’re living in interesting times: The Communist Party (KKE) television broadcasts a fired pro-austerity journalist interviewing a member of the Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow (AntArSyA), while illegally transmitting ERT, which was shut down by the government with an “act of legislative content.” At the same time two out of three governmental partners declare the government has lost parliamentary confidence. Outside the headquarters of the ERT, banners of KKE, SYRIZA, and ANTARSYA* fly together, with some thousands of citizens singing “When are the stars going to shine again?”
*KKE, SYRIZA, and ANTARSYA, along with almost every other left party, have been engaged in interminable ideological conflicts.
One of the last clips prepared by the ERT staff is a passionate and moving tribute to the significance of public television at youtu.be/2nhX4S4Zdnc. It is captioned in English (Turn captions on).
Dimitrios Moschos is a university student living in Athens.