Greece’s prime minister has offered to partially reopen the country’s public broadcaster just days after ordering it shut down. The decision to close ERT has caused a rift within the country’s governing coalition.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Friday that the public broadcaster could reopen soon, but with a radically reduced number of staff members.
"A temporary committee ... can be appointed to hire a small number of (ERT) employees, so that the broadcast of information programs can begin immediately," he said in a written statement.
The conservative prime minister's offer appeared to be designed to placate his two coalition partners, the socialist PASOK party and the Democratic Left, both of which support the idea of restructuring ERT, but want the broadcaster reopened immediately.
"I expect a stance of responsibility from (the coalition's) political leaders so that our cooperation can continue unhindered," Samaras' statement said.
However, there was no indication that the compromise would be enough to satisfy the opposition, with a PASOK official describing it as inadequate. There was no immediate comment from the Democratic Left.
On Tuesday, Samaras had explained the decision to close down the public broadcaster as being part of efforts to bring down the country's massive deficit, as required under financial bailouts funded by the European Union, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Strikes and demonstrations
Since the decision was announced, many of the 2,600 laid off staff members have been staging sit-ins at the company's offices around the country. A nationwide strike on Thursday brought thousands to the streets of Athens to protest against the move.
The country has also been without television and radio news broadcasts since Tuesday, after journalists walked off the job in solidarity with their ERT colleagues. On Friday, ETER, the coordinating committee of media associations announced that there was no immediate plan to end the strike.
"We are continuing our struggle to cancel the government's coup decision to close down ERT. It is a fight to defend public television and democracy," a statement said.
Also on Friday, the head of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) travelled to Athens, where he demanded that the public broadcaster be reinstated.
"We ask the government to reverse this decision, we ask the government to reestablish the signal on TV, radio and web," EBU President Jean-Paul Philippot told a news conference.
The EBU has been helping some former ERT staff continue broadcasting via an Internet live stream and via satellite. The signal is also being re-transmitted by a number of Greek news sites.
Prime Minister Samaras has invited the leaders of his two coalition partners to a meeting on Monday to try to find common ground on the issue.
pfd/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)