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Closure of Greek Broadcaster Sparks Protests, Strikes


The Greek government’s decision to close the state broadcaster created a political crisis today as thousands of disgruntled employees and sympathetic union members went on strike, causing public transportation to completely shut down and flights to be canceled in Athens and other cities. At least two smaller political parties threatened to leave the coalition government if the decision to close the broadcaster wasn’t reversed soon.

Greece’s embattled Prime Minister Antonis Samaras closed the broadcaster, ERT, which a government spokesman called “a unique example of extravagant spending and lack of transparency,” as part of his quest to overhaul Greece from “a real Jurassic Park” to a functioning economy.

As the FT reports, “The broadcaster has 2,650 employees working at five television stations, 29 radio stations and several websites. It also supports two symphony orchestras.” The abrupt decision to close it sparked an unexpectedly angry backlash against the government in Athens. “This is completely illegal…. The government has overstepped its authority. You can’t do this without parliamentary approval, it’s an issue of democracy,” said the leader of one opposition party.

So far though, the government is not backing down. Samaras called a meeting on Monday (“It should have taken place today. Four days could create irreversible developments,” said another opposition party leader) to work out a compromise to keep the government in place. “I believe there is scope for compromise and we will not go to new elections,” one of his aides told Reuters. In the meantime, public transportation in Athens is at a standstill, dozens of flights will be canceled when airline workers go on strike later today, train service is halted across the country, and thousands of protestors have gathered outside the shuttered offices of the state broadcaster.

“The country is on a knife’s edge,” an unnamed government official told Reuters.

[Protestors gather outside Greece’s public TV ERT headquarters in Athens, a day after the government’s decision to immediately shut down the state broadcaster’s operations, affecting nearly 2,700 jobs. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.]

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  • Pete

    Never underestimate the fury of a parasite when its rice bowl is threatened.

  • Andrew Allison

    Samaris has obvious learned for from the present US administration that the way to prevent necessary spending reductions is to inflict maximum pain on your employers, er taxpayers.

  • ljgude

    I have read that medical personnel in Greece’s hospitals have faced pay holidays and that medicines are scarce. So Greece has obviously already cut the frills and austerity is now biting into the essential services.

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