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Greece Axes ERT to Cut Costs

The country’s Prime Minister says closure will be temporary

In a bold effort to revamp the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT, Greece’s government surprised both employees and the public by shutting down the broadcaster’s services early Wednesday.

ERT ran three domestic TV channels, four national radio stations, as well regional radio stations and an external service, Voice of Greece. The broadcaster’s shortwave and Internet services remain online.

All employees are suspended until further notice as the country continues spending cuts in order to comply with requirements from international lenders, who will supply €8.8 billion ($11.4 billion) in aid.

According to BBC reports, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is sticking to his decision. While speaking at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry Wednesday night, the conservative Prime Minister described ERT as “the symbol of waste and lack of transparency.”

Samaras said that this is a temporary closure and that a new public service broadcaster will be created. “We are not closing down public radio and television,” Samaras said. “In fact, it is only now that we are going to get proper public radio and television.”

Greece-based news outlet ekathimerini reported that the government presented on Wednesday a draft law for the new public broadcaster it wants to set up, under the name of NERIT. The new service would have about 1,000 employees and would cost 100 million euros to run compared to the 300 million ERT absorbed.

Meanwhile, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the Democratic Left (DIMAR) submitted to Parliament on Wednesday a proposal for the legislative act permitting ERT’s immediate closure to be scrapped, said the ekathimerini.

The abrupt closure has caused demonstrations outside the station’s headquarters in Athens, and according to Dow Jones Business News, private broadcasters in the country suspended their news broadcasts on Wednesday in a show of solidarity.

The country’s journalists’ unions have also called a 24-hour national broadcast strike, barring the ERT stations still on air by employees who have refused to leave their posts, said the BBC.

The broadcaster has transmitted programming for about 70 years and employs about 2,600 people.