Silenced Greek TV ready to get back on air, could it happen to the BBC?
Silenced Greek TV ready to get back on air
‘No matter what happens the news will go live, even if there’s an earthquake, a fire or if we all die. News will go live or it’s a dictatorship.’ This is what editors of Greece’s state broadcaster ERT stated.
Background to the Closure
11th June 2013, when trying to push forward the reforms after the financial collapse, the public broadcaster was abruptly taken off air. This left 2,656 employees unemployed. Nearly 2 years later, after the historic shutdown, the ex-employees of ERT are still hoping the new three week old government will stand by its word and reopen the broadcaster and bring the service back on air.
“Our lives were erased in minutes,” Mary Venezi, a radio producer from ERT said. “The government announced the closure that afternoon, and within hours it had all ended. We were in shock but we didn’t give up.” After transmission stopped, the employees squatted the building and, with their initiative calling themselves ERT Open, kept broadcasting through all available frequencies until the police forced them out 5 months later.
Despite the financial hardships staff moved across the street to their union’s offices where they started broadcasting again and have been doing so since.
“One of our colleagues killed herself and another miscarried at 6 months, Ms Venezi revealed. “We won’t stop until this fight is recognised.”
Are there similarities with other Broadcasters?
The closure was not entirely unjustifiable. ERT has failed in the past to reform itself. It was an open secret since 1975 that ERT had been used for relentless political appointments, while several staff drew big salaries without showing up for work.
“Whoever it was, it wasn’t me,” stated Zefi Tsoukala, an ERT Open volunteer. “After 25 years I was earning just over €1,000. We knew what was happening and had contacted prosecution services but our claims were ignored.”
Today, 700 people around Greece keep ERT Open, open by operating 17 radio frequencies, one television and one online channel. Not all of the employees used to work at ERT.
“I am an unemployed,” said Kostas Klestas, who contributes as a news producer. “Everybody does a bit of everything. There are people who were drivers and have now become sound engineers to cover the needs.”
“Chryssa Dimitriadou, a retired ERT news presenter also helps at ERT Open. “I was there for 28 years and it’s my duty to help in a time of need,” she said. “I’ll be here until these people’s efforts find justice.”
“We have shed tears, sweat and blood along the way but there are always those who put their own interests above the common fight,” stated Panagiotis Kalfagiannis.
Can we afford not to have a State broadcaster?
One month after ERT was closed; a new state broadcaster was formed, called Nerit. 1,000 employees from ERT were rehired to work at the new station. Those who didn’t move are now waiting for the state minister, Nikos Pappas, to honour his statement about opening ERT once again. Although the positivity isn’t shared by everyone.
“I am not as optimistic anymore,” stated Mr Kalfagiannis. “We expected the left-wing government to be the voice of the people and open ERT the day after the election as they promised. It’s been nearly a month and they still haven’t.”