Member and neighbour States

ERT blackout: The last straw?

Demonstrations in support of the ERT (Flickr, linmtheu)

Demonstrations in support of the ERT (Flickr, linmtheu)

The national Greek television, Ellinikí Radiofonía Tileórasi (ERT), ceased to broadcast on last Tuesday, due to the government’s decision to close down its signal a couple of hours before. Following this unexpected and brutal announcement, the main trade unions and corporations called for a strike on last Thursday. 

Although ERT actually keeps broadcasting – via Internet – the decision taken by the Greek Prime minister (also New Democracy’s leader) may spark things off, especially as this is very symbolic for the population who is still experiencing the consequences of an unsuccessful and effective austerity policy. On his side, Samaras justifies his decision by pointing out to an old and corrupted audiovisual service, in spite of the PASOK (the Greek socialist party) and DIMAR who expressed strong reservations as far as Samaras’ quasi-unilateral decision is concerned.

The Greek government’s brutal and quasi-unexpected decision is quite controversial, even if it seems logical according to some political analysts and people insisting on the importance of corruption inside the ex-ERT, which seemed to have become the norm. Jean Quatremer, the French journalist in charge of the European Union for Liberation, gives on his blog a very different point of view and denounces the corporatist influence of an entity made of civil servants close to PASOK or New Democracy. To sum up, and contrary to France Télévisions or the BBC, the Greek audiovisual service independence was purely theoretical and Antonis Samaras did what nobody dared to do so far: dismantling a non-effective and useless public service.

This is also a subtle way to clear the Troika (European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank), immediately accused by some people such as Isabelle Durant, Ecologist Vice-president of the EP, who tackled its illegitimacy and demanded its dismantlement. In fact, it is needed to say the Troika is not directly responsible for the closing down of ERT, even if it highly recommended deep cuts in public services.

In other words, the Greek audiovisual dismantlement seems to be a nice occasion for Antonis Samaras who enjoys the current economic situation of his country to question the civil service, pretty much protected from the crisis so far. What is more, and according to Jean Quatremer, he enjoys charging the Troika and embarrasses PASOK and DIMAR coalition partners who have no interest (especially the Greek socialists) to go in election.

Nonetheless, if Samaras’ decision seems to be habile, it remains very “heavy”. By dismantling the ERT, even if it was corrupted, the Greek ruler tackles a fundamental freedom, which is the right to be informed and to communicate, all the more so as nobody knows really how the future Greek audiovisual service will be made and composed, Antonis Samaras being able to attempt to appoint his friends and faithful people. But the most important is to know whether this brutal decision will have or not a political aftermath, especially for the extremes and other radical groups such as Syriza (the Radical Left) and Golden Dawn (the neo-Nazi party).

Gilles JOHNSON

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