Shock and Anger With ERT’s Closing

Themistocles Konstantinou

Greek society was in shock Tuesday night when Simos Kedikoglou, a former state television journalist, acting as government spokesman described the broadcaster, known as ERT, as a “haven of waste”. Couple of hours before him, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras gave only a few hours’ warning when he announced he was “unplugged” ERT, the Hellenic National Broadcaster citing a need to cut this “haven of waste” and firing almost 3000 employees.

ERT had been connected with Greece’s identity the last 75 years, from 1938, 3 years before its broadcast announcers on the radio, announcing the entrance of the Nazis in 1941, the military coup of 1967, the fall of Junta in 1974, the Turkish invasion in Cyprus and recently Greece’s profound economic and social crisis.

The fact that ERT was unexpectedly shut down within a day has stunned and angered many people in Greek Capital. Mr. Antonis Samaras insists that is wasteful, inefficient with a well-known mismanagement. He forgot to mention that the manager is appointed by the competent Government’s appointing ministry and chosen by Prime Minister personally. The fired employees say that is the fault of governments and each Prime Minister’s decisions that brought in political corrupt persons and got rich on corrupt practices.

Political analysts on other Greek Broadcasters said that the closing of ERT was an “antidote” to the failure of DEPA’s selling to GAZPROM, the most drastic move to slash the country’s bloated public sector since Athens applied for a foreign bailout in 2010. DEPA is one of the most important state-controlled companies on Greece’s privatization program. This suffered a severe setback when Gazprom failed to bid for the state-controlled natural gas supplier, while only one offer was received for DESFA, which manages the Greece’s gas distribution network. Gazprom, the only bidder, had been expected to offer about €900m for a controlling stake in DEPA, following months of negotiations with the Greek government for the price of sale. The last days Gazprom withdrew the offer after the EU last week reiterated that it would block a sale to Gazprom for reasons of monopolistic behavior.

Greek Government through its spokesman Mr. Kedikoglou said that “the Greek people are paying for ERT, which has three times, even eight times, as much staff as it needs.” He added that the broadcaster suffered because of “management that lacked transparency, [excessive] benefits for its workers and spending huge amounts on external productions.”

The shutdown was a surprise for Greek society and the fragile coalition government was in disarray Wednesday, a day after the announcement. The choice of ERT’s employees as sacrificial victims led many to suspect other dark motives and led to comparisons with some communist regimes just like in Soviet era. Perhaps PM Samaras’ fragile governing coalition may lead to fall after ERT’s shutdown. PM Samaras declared this move as “symbolic” and the start of great reforms. But outside ERT’s main building every day laid off thousands of protesters, including many of the 3000 workersof the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp. The banners adorning street kiosks read, “War Over ERT” , “A Hurry Over Sudden Death,” and “An Execution to Please the “Troikans”,” a reference to the known trio of foreign employees that administer the Greek economy and the bailout money. The two unions of the country GSEE that represents the private sector employees and ADEDY representing civil servants, declared 24-hour strike last Wednesday in response to the closure of ERT. Reacting to the dismissal, on Wednesday workers at ERT continued to broadcast programs through digital television and the Internet.

With a phrase : “This is worse than the junta”, from an old man outside ERT’s main building, i want to close this article with a requiem, referring to the military dictatorship that governed Greece in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “What’s next? The Tanks in front of the Greek Parliament?”

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