On the air? (photo: J. Waits)
On Tuesday, the Greek government shut down its national broadcasting network ERT and ordered all of its radio and television stations off the air. Citizens, politicians, and journalists have been vocally protesting this turn of events, which has left a broadcasting void for many in Greece.
According to a story on BBC News Europe, “Viewers watching the news on the main TV channel saw the screens go to black late on Tuesday evening.” Some Greek citizens are now left with no free Greek television options. Radio Survivor contributor (and Greek radio scholar) Michael Nevradakis has been monitoring the situation and is providing non-stop updates on his Dialogos Media Twitter feed. He’s also been doing rebroadcasts of ERT on his Dialogos website.
Nevradakis told Radio Survivor that ERT had significance reach not only in Greece, but around the world. Over email he explained that,
“ERT was Greece’s only nationwide public broadcaster. It operated several television and radio stations, plus regional radio services, Greece’s international satellite television station, and Greece’s international shortwave radio service. For years, ERT has been the one unifying link that the Greek diaspora, which numbers over 7 million people around the world, with their homeland.”
Within hours of the announcement of a legislative order signed by 21 government ministers, ERT went off the air. Nevradakis said, “Simos Kedikoglou, the Greek government spokesman, accused ERT and its employees of incredible waste and inefficiency, while claiming that the decision to shut down ERT was justified based on ERT’s audience figures (a combined 11% for its three nationwide television networks, compared to the 18-20% seen by each of the largest private television networks).” Nevradakis pointed out that this comparison was strange in light of the fact that it was “…ERT’s mission to provide programming that is not necessarily the most commercially viable.”
Nevradakis explained what happened as the shut down began:
“Fiber optic feeds which fed transmitters and satellite uplink stations throughout the country were severed. Riot police were reportedly sent to numerous mountaintop transmitter locations to turn off power at ERT’s transmitter sites. Phone lines and internet connections were shut off by OTE (the now-private Greek telecom giant that is owned by Deutsche Telecom) under government orders, at ERT’s main building and at ERT facilities throughout the country. Riot police surrounded…a secondary ERT building in downtown Athens, threatening all remaining employees inside with arrest and immediate court-martial if they refused to vacate the premises, as they were now considered to be under ‘occupation.’ This despite the fact that the employees were not officially delivered their layoff notice from the government, as required by law.”
Although most of the ERT stations are off the air, a few of the regional radio outlets are operating “under employee occupation.” Nevradakis said that ERT employees have also continued to broadcast online using web TV. Other stations outside of Greece are rebroadcasting ERT programming. Additionally, Nevradakis said, “Several radio stations in Greece, including Communist Party-owned Aristera 90.4 FM in Thessaloniki, and the municipal radio of Neo Iraklio (a region in the greater Athens area) Epikoinonia FM 94.0 have been rebroadcasting ERT’s audio, as have several local and regional private stations and at least one student radio station in various areas throughout Greece.”
The Greek government has indicated that it will establish a newer, smaller public broadcaster to replace ERT later this summer.