The Greeks have lost their BBC to austerity
The closing down of ERT, the Greek public broadcaster, is a deeply shocking and cynical act by the Greek government. The NUJ is working with trade unions around the world and joining in their protests against the closure. We have sent messages of solidarity to journalist colleagues and to all those on strike in support of the media workers. Please make sure you sign the Stop the shutdown of Public Television in Greece! Petition.
The government shut down the public broadcasting organisation’s three TV stations, radio and regional radio stations, satellite emissions and internet portal and sacked its staff. Why? We are told Greece must put an end to its bloated public sector and meet the terms set down by the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank – known as the Troika.
This is failed economic dogma at its worst. Journalists need to be able to report on the situation in Greece: the hardship caused by the austerity measures, the highest youth unemployment in Europe, the thousands of job cuts and the alarming advance of the far-right. ERT’s closure is an attack on news and on democracy. The Greek public sector broadcaster was not shut down during the German occupation or military junta. But it was shut down this week. This is not a time for governments to be stifling the press. When the screens go dark, people have to fight back.
Countries, when they are in trouble, need an impartial, independent public broadcasting service more than ever. The NUJ salutes the courage and tenacity of ERT journalists who are resisting the closure and continuing to broadcast live.
The government says it will reinstate the station, but with a staff slashed by over 50% to 1,200 workers. This is a cynical manoeuvre by the Greek prime minister, and it is gross insult to the journalists themselves. Those journalists must not be made to pay with their livelihoods for the actions of others: the bosses, bankers and the politicians.
The NUJ, together with Jim Boumelha, president of the International Federation of Journalists, is working with the Greek trade unions and we supported this week’s international solidarity protests and general strike.
We have sent a message of support from our members at the BBC saying:
“We stand in opposition to the Greek government’s act of cultural vandalism. Public service broadcasters, independent from both the government and the commercial imperative, are the lifeblood of free and open societies. The decision to close ERT should have been subject to democratic debate and decision-making in Parliament – not through a shabby deal between two government ministers. It must be reversed.”
With unemployment in Greece at almost 27 per cent, the trade union movement must continue to campaign against austerity – we want a future that works. Europe needs policies which encourage companies to share their wealth, increase the pay of their employees and cough up the taxes they owe. We reject the harmful policies that are forcing people into poverty and forcing public broadcasters off the air.