Greek state broadcast transmissions get help from Europe

June 13, 2013 at 1:49 PM
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ATHENS, Greece, June 13 (UPI) -- The European Broadcast Union resumed transmission of Greek state television Thursday as a massive strike protested the closing of the national broadcaster.

EBU began the feed after discovering ERT, the Greek state television network, had paid for satellite time in advance, the British newspaper The Guardian reported. The material came from a studio in Thessaloniki, the only ERT operation still producing material.

ERT employees occupying the headquarters in Athens demanded the government withdraw a threat made earlier Thursday to discipline any broadcaster using the ERT logo.

"We ask the president of the republic to demand from the government to respect the Constitution and stop violating fundamental democratic rights. We ask him to guarantee that the police forces will not invade ERT," employees said late Thursday in an English language statement.

The government announced late Tuesday ERT (the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp.) would shut down to help cut the number of government workers. The closing prompted widespread job actions Thursday.

The walkout meant buses, trolleys and trains were idle and the Athens metro, the Athens tram and the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway ran on a limited basis, reported. International and domestic flights were expected to be disrupted for several hours when air traffic controllers were scheduled to leave their posts.

Journalists also were on strike.

Thousands of people demonstrated Wednesday outside the headquarters after television and radio services went dark Wednesday and 2,700 employees were fired.

Government officials defended the unexpected move as necessary as the country confronts crushing debt, soaring unemployment and a relentless recession. They said it would reopen with a smaller budget and fewer employees

Government spokesman Simon Kedikoglou cited chronic corruption and mismanagement of funds as reasons why the broadcaster was closed, at least temporarily.

The General Secretariat of Information and Communication said the new public broadcaster would be called the Organization of Modern State Television.

To meet its commitments to creditors -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund -- the Greek government has to dismiss 2,000 public-sector employees by the end of this year and 15,000 by the end of 2014.

The European Commission said Wednesday it did not ask Greek officials to shutter ERT "but nor does the commission question the Greek government's mandate to manage the public sector."

Reporters Without Borders expressed dismay over what it said was a "bizarre" decision by the government to end ERT's activities, CNN said.

"Greece has fallen almost 50 places in the past three years in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, a record fall in such a short period for a European Union member state," a statement from the organization said. "The reasons include violence against reporters covering anti-austerity demonstrations, which goes completely unpunished, and threats against journalists and other news providers by the Golden Dawn party's neo-Nazis."

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