International / Let's talk about Europe

ERT blackout: the final straw?

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The ERT headquarters in Athens

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

Although ERT keeps broadcasting actually – via Internet – the decision made by the Greek Prime minister and New Democracy leader might spark things off, all the more so 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 pointing out an old and corrupted audiovisual service, in spite of the PASOK (the Greek socialist party) and DEMIS 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 some political analysts and people insisting on the importance of corruption inside the ex-ERT which seemed to become the norm. By the way, Jean Quatremer, the French Liberation newspaper correspondent for the European Union gives in 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.

Antonis Samaras, Greece Prime minister and New Democracy leader

Antonis Samaras, Greece Prime minister and New Democracy leader

This is also a subtle way to clear the Troika (European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank), immediately accused by some people as Isabelle Durant, Ecologist EP Vice-president 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, protected and saved by the crisis so far. What is more, and according to Jean Quatremer, he enjoys charging the Troika and embarrasses PASOK and DEMAR coalition partners who have no interest (especially the Greek socialists) to go in election.

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Nonetheless, if Samaras’ decision seems to be habile, it remains very heavy. Dismantling 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, Antonio Samaras being able to be attempted to appoint his friends and faithful people. But the most important is to know if this brutal decision will have or not a political aftermath, for the extremes and other radical groups as SYRIZA (the Radical Left) and Golden Dawn (the neo-Nazi party)

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