Protest hits closing of Greece radio, TV

In the name of austerity and efficiency, the Greek government pulled the plug on its public radio and television service June 11 by cutting power to its antennas.

This abrupt and harsh measure cuts service, not only to millions of people in Greece, but also to the millions of Greek speakers abroad.

The reaction was almost immediate. Two days later unions called a one-day general strike and thousands of protesters came out to protest the closing at Hellenic Radio Television (ERT) headquartered in Athens. (inter.kke.gr) According to the BBC monitoring service, there were also major demonstrations in Thessaloníki, Greece’s second largest city, elsewhere in northern Greece, and also in the Peloponnese.

ERT fills the same role in Greece as National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service do in the United States, or the British Broadcasting Company does in Britain.

The European Broadcasting Union, an association of all public broadcasting operations in Europe, points out that shutting down ERT is going to increase the Greek deficit, since ERT runs at a profit. L’Humanité, the newspaper of the French Communist Party, even published ERT’s financial report.

Every time the radio-television service of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), called “902,” runs a strike bulletin from the ERT workers, the Greek government kills the power to 902 transmitters.

The EBU, reacting to the Greek government’s charge of waste and corruption, points out that the 30 “consultants” the government ordered ERT to hire after that government came to power in June 2012 draw yearly salaries about the same as the total of all the rest of ERT’s 2,656 employees. (L’Humanité, June 18)

Need for change in economy

During the past five years in Greece, austerity plans have cut wages and pensions 35 to 40 percent, increased taxes 25 percent and removed all sorts of worker protections, annulled union contracts, closed hospitals and turned off heat in schools. Overall unemployment is more than 27 percent; for those under 30, it is 62 percent. Thirty percent of the Greek people no longer have medical care, and a third of all Greeks live below the poverty line.

The Greek government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have imposed this situation so that country can make its debt payments. For these institutions, this is no catastrophe. They have what they want.

This attack on the ERT, given Greece’s economic catastrophe and the abrupt, brutal fashion in which it was carried out, has strained the governing coalition which consists of New Democracy – – whose leader Antonis Samaras is prime minister – – the Panhellenic Socialist Party and the Democratic Left.

The Constitutional Court on June 18 ordered the government to restore power to ERT’s antenna. As of June 22, the power was still off.