Protests, Disbelief after Greek Government Axes Public Broadcaster
The Greek government's decision to pull the plug on its national public broadcaster has sparked major protests with media workers, politicians and members of the public gathering outside offices of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, the ERT, in Athens.
Greece's conservative government shut off ERT's signal Tuesday night, hours after announcing that the public broadcaster, which costs Greek taxpayers around $400 million (€300 million) a year would be closed as part of national austerity programs.
Greece has already drastically slashed public services in an attempt to comply with cost-cutting measures required to secure bailout funds from European and international institutions.
ERT's three national TV channels as well as its national and regional radio stations where taken off air at midnight local time. ERT's 2,600 employees were laid off and asked to reapply for their jobs as part of a new, supposedly independent media organization the government says will replace the old ERT.
The closure has shocked many in Greece and elsewhere. Shortly after the announcement, crowds began to gather outside ERT's Athens headquarters.
Unions representing media workers called for a general media blackout in protest and private TV channels complied, taking shows off the air for six hours, replacing them with re-runs and advertisements.
ERT employees defied the government shutdown and continued to broadcast live coverage of the protests online after over-the-air transmissions were blocked.
ERT's online feed, at www.ert.gr, appeared to still be working by late morning local time on Wednesday.