Greek government suspends public broadcaster ERT | News | DW | 11.06.2013
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Greek government suspends public broadcaster ERT

The Greek government has shut down the country’s public broadcaster. The move is part of efforts to rein in Greece's public debt as demanded by its international creditors.

The Greek government halted ERT television and radio broadcasts around 11p.m. (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, several hours after announcing the temporary shut down.

Watch video 01:07

Greece temporarily shuts down public broadcaster

"The government has decided to close down ERT - as of tonight," government spokesperson Simos Kedikoglou told reporters in Athens Tuesday.

"ERT is a typical example of unique lack of transparency and incredible waste. And that ends today," he added. "It costs three to seven times as much as other TV stations and four to six times the personnel - for a very small viewership, about half that of an average private station."

The first direct public sector layoffs since Greece began its austerity drive more than three years ago, will see around 2,500 people lose their jobs.

Kedikoglou said ERT in its current form cost the taxpayer 300 million euros ($398 million per year). He also said it would reopen "as soon as possible" with a much smaller workforce.

Tensions among the coalition

The announcement came after Greece's coalition government issued a ministerial decree authorizing it to shut down public enterprises. However, it also created divisions within Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' coalition government.

A statement released by the socialist PASOK party said Samaras' conservatives had presented the measure as necessary for Greece to obtain the next tranche of an international bailout that has been keeping the country financially afloat.

Greece has already received around 200 billion euros in from two separate bailout funds over the past three years. A team of inspectors fro the so-called troika of lenders, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, arrived in Athens on Monday to conduct its latest review of Greece's progress in implementing spending cuts and reforms.

Trade unions cry foul

Some media unions representing ERT employees have pledged to defy the government decision and keep the public broadcaster on the air. Shortly after the news broke, employees began gathering outside of ERT's headquarters in Athens to protest. Journalists at private broadcasters walked off the job after announcing a five-hour news blackout.

The Brussels-based European Federation of Journalists condemned the government's decision.

"We consider this a blow to democracy," the federation's director, Marc Gruber said in an interview with the Associated Press. "We intend to put pressure on the [Greek] government and the European Union. This is not just an issue of democracy. It is also an issue of people losing their jobs from one day to another."

pfd/kms(AP, dpa, Reuters)