Greeks shocked as state broadcaster is shut
Updated: 2013-06-12 15:20
Employees stand at the windows of the Greek state television (ERT) headquarters after the government's announcement that it will shut down the broadcaster in Athens June 11, 2013. [Agencies]
ATHENS - Greece announced the closure of its state broadcaster out of the blue on Tuesday, one of the most drastic measures yet in its struggle to shore up its bankrupt state finances and meet the terms of an international bailout.
The decision to take ERT off the air at midnight and pay off some 2,600 staff before relaunching it in a slimmed-down form set off a firestorm of protests from trade unions and even junior partners in the ruling coalition. Some of the channels appeared to shut down even before the deadline.
"At a time when the Greek people are enduring sacrifices, there is no room for delay, hesitation or tolerance for sacred cows," spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said in what was almost certainly ERT's last televised government statement.
The three domestic television channels, along with regional, national and external radio stations, cost Greece 300 million euros ($400 million) a year, and Kedikoglou said it had become a "typical case of ... incredible waste".
Thousands gathered outside ERT's headquarters after the announcement, vowing to fight the decision, and riot police blocked the entrance to a studio in central Athens where protesters had unfolded a banner reading "Down with the junta, ERT won't close!".
"Today is Tuesday, June 11, and it is a difficult day," anchorwoman Elli Stai told viewers from the studio as crowds of workers outside chanted and clapped.
"We will broadcast what appears to be our last news bulletin with the composure, consistency and professionalism that we are used to."
Private TV stations took their live shows off air for six hours in a display of solidarity, replacing them with re-runs and adverts. None ran the traditional 8 pm news bulletin.
The announcement followed an embarrassing failure on Monday to find a buyer for the gas firm DEPA as part of a broad sell-off of state assets, leaving Greece short of the cash to meet its bailout targets.
Strains in Government
The closure of ERT immediately opened cracks in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's fragile three-party coalition, whose two junior partners protested that they had not been consulted.