New Greek state TV channel goes on air

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Greece’s new state television channel has begun airing news programmes more than two months after the government’s abrupt closure of state broadcaster ERT drew international condemnation and led to a severe political crisis.

The move came as Europe’s public broadcaster said it was halting its relay of programmes by ERT’s sacked workers, who have been occupying the company’s building and producing 24-hour programming in defiance of the closure.

Greece’s conservative-led government abruptly axed ERT in June and fired all 2,700 staff, citing the need to cut costs amid the country’s debt crisis.

The sacked workers continued to produce programmes, and the European Broadcasting Union sought to help them by streaming their broadcasts by satellite and on its website.

The outcry over the closing of ERT led to a small left-wing party withdrawing from the country’s fragile three-party governing coalition, leaving the government with a tiny majority in parliament.

The EBU announced earlier this week that it would halt its streaming of ERT programmes yesterday because ERT’s successor was to begin news programming.

Until now, a temporary state broadcaster set up after ERT’s 
closure had been airing mainly documentaries and old Greek movies.

In a statement posted on its website, the EBU said it “believes that independent public service media is indispensable for democracies, culture and societies” and that when ERT was abruptly shut down, it “felt it had no option but to immediately take action to prevent Greek screens from remaining black, by carrying the satellite signal being produced by former ERT staff and streaming it on our website”.

As a result, it committed to helping out until a basic public service media output had been established.

“This pledge has been honoured,” EBU said.

ERT union leaders vowed programming by the sacked workers would continue via the internet.