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Austerity cuts will mean Greece's state broadcaster ERT will go dark

ATHENS, Greece, June 11 (UPI) -- The Greek government announced Tuesday the country's public broadcaster, ERT, will go dark to save money.

The austerity measure will put about 2,700 employees out of work Wednesday, ekathimerini.com reported.

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Simos Kedikoglou, a spokesman for Prime Minister Atonis Samaras, said ERT was being operated with a "lack of transparency" and was wasteful.

"The Greek people are paying for ERT, which has three times, even eight times, as much staff as it needs," he said.

The announcement took millions of Greeks by surprise, the daily newspaper's website said.

Greek citizens have paid for ERT through their electricity bills. Kedikoglou said those charges would not be collected until a leaner and more efficient public broadcaster is set up.

Ekathimerini.com said its sources said Samaras had discussed the closure of the broadcaster with several close advisers and government officials. The prime minister intends the move to be a sign of his determination to carry out the reforms demanded by Greece's creditors, the sources said.

But the newspaper said it learned his coalition partners, Evangelos Venizelos of PASOK and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left, refused to back him on the shutdown.

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"The state broadcaster cannot be closed down," PASOK said in a statement.

"A coalition government comprising three partners cannot function through faits accomplis," PASOK spokesman Yiannis Maniatis said, adding, "important matters must be decided by all party leaders."

Democratic Left said in a statement it "radically disagreed" with the closure of ERT.

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