Fifty public service media leaders in 39 countries have rallied behind the shelved Greek broadcaster ERT by signing a European Broadcast Union (EBU)-led statement calling for the station to be restored to air immediately.
The signatories, which include the directors general of all of Europe’s most important public service media organizations from Ireland in the West to Russia in the East, as well as Middle East broadcasters in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon, universally condemn the Greek government’s “undemocratic and unprofessional” course of action, which “undermines the existence of public service media in Greece”.
The statement, to which the directors general, presidents and chief executive officers, as well as several heads of international relations, have put their names, reads as follows:
ERT MUST BE RESTORED TO AIR!
“We, as Directors General of Europe’s public broadcasters, express our profound dismay at the action taken by the Greek Government on Tuesday, 11 June in shutting down ERT with immediate effect.
This undemocratic and unprofessional action of the Greek government undermines the existence of public service media in Greece and its independence from the government.
For that reason, we strongly urge the Greek Prime Minister to immediately reverse this decision, allowing ERT to go back on the air in Greece and we wholeheartedly support the open letter sent by the EBU President and Director General on 11 June 2013.”
Having collected the signatures in less than 24 hours, the EBU leadership has sent the document to the Greek Government in a second letter urging Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to revoke the closure decree, while in addition appealing for at least one ERT TV channel to be left on air.
EBU has also been carrying the ERT news channel NET's signal on its website and broadcasting via its Athens earth station, while four global satellites are keeping the channel on air internationally.
The letter follows the Greek Prime Ministers decision to close the public service broadcaster with immediate effect last week as part of Greece's ongoing austerity drive. However following widespread criticism including a general strike, the PM has now offered to partially reinstate the organisation to allow limited news broadcasting.
The offer doesn't seem to have been a wholesale success. Samaras' two coalition government partners have flatly rejected it, threatening to quit the government if ERT is not entirely restored to service, while all the major unions and trade bodies concerned have been similarly dismissive.
Samaras may not have helped his own efforts to appear neutral on the matter of ERT's fate when he described it in an address to his own party as "a den of sin and scandals" that puts a huge strain on the public purse.