ERT shutdown – Live blog 14 June 2013

Good morning and welcome to radiobubble’s rolling coverage of developments related to the government’s decision to shut down ERT, Greece’s public radio and television broadcaster. You can read about what happened in the past three days here, here and here.

Here are a few useful tidbits of information to start the day:

  • The EBU is still livestreaming ERT (watch here). It appears however that ERT radio and television is back on air on analog frequencies in some parts of the country. ERT World seems to be broadcasting normally abroad while ERT radio is broadcasting nationwide through Flash fm radio.
  • The Hellenic Parliament reportedly came under attack from Anonymous last night. It is unclear yet what information exactly they gathered, but the cyber attack was apparently on an extremely large scale and included email correspondence of MPs.
  • The Communist Party’s television station 902, whose digital frequency has been going off air in the last few days, conducted some tests to determine if this was an accident or not, by broadcasting their regular programming and then switching to ERT live. Every time they did, the signal was thrown off air within seconds. In its statement, 902 denounces the government but also digital transmission service DIGEA, a private company which is enforcing the government’s policy to silence anyone who broadcasts ERT.
  • Protests against the shutdown of ERT are continuing in Greece and abroad; for example at least three rallies are planned in the UK today in London, Edinburgh and Bristol. Another one is planned in Sydney, Australia on Sunday.
  • @plitharas compiled here a good sample of international media about the ERT shutdown.
We will be updating this post throughout the day.

07.30 pm: A live concert is now taking place at the ERT Headquarters. This post will not be updated anymore, but you can follow our frontpage for updates.

06:00 pm: There is a calling for an open discussion among citizens who pop into ERT to express their solidarity. Sunday edition of Kathimerini, Proto Thema, Real & DOL group newspapers will be published amid solidarity strike for the state broadcaster.

04:45 pm: Greece’s highest court -the Council of State- is expected to make a decision on Monday upon POSPERT* appeal for a temporary injuction that would halt Samaras plans to close down ERT. In case it is accepted, then it would be the first time where a supreme court disavowes the law process and suspends (even temporarily) a common ministry decision which worked as a legal foundation for issuing the legislative act for the broadcaster’s closure.

POSPERT = ERT’s trade union

Outside the ERT HQ at 02:17pm
Picture by @inflammatory_

02:35 pm: NET is also broadcasting normally in Heraklion and Chania. Kriti fm announced that they would suspend the re-transmission of ERT’s programme at 3 pm.

02:28 pm: Calls on multiplying on Greek social media for ERT to stop discussing how unfair the shutdown is and to start broadcasting real news, as well as to engage in self-criticism for what its journalists failed to do while it was under government control.



01:59 pm: Tweep @OzMa13 reports that ERT’s TV channel 2 (NET) is broadcasting normally in Ioannina. the staff apparently managed to set up a transmitter. The local ERT radio station reported that “The black screen has fallen.” Meanwhile, Irish National Union of Journalists leader Gerry Curran is delivering an unequivocal condemnation of the government decision to shut down ERT on ERT TV.

Picture by @MakisSinodinos

01:10 pm: The EBU president stated that he would meet the Finance Minister this afternoon to hand him a letter of protest signed by 50 public broadcasters, ask that the government re-establish the ERT signal and talk about the future and sustainability of ERT. In the Q&A session however, he emphasized that the absolute priority was to re-establish the signal and that any discussion regarding the future and sustainability of ERT, or on the new broadcaster prepared by the Finance Ministry, would remain very general for the time being.

The EBU secretary-general further stated that, from the EBU perspective, ERT is still considered as a legal entity and a member of the Union, and that the EBU pondered possible legal consequences before engaging in supporting ERT to remain on air.

The fact that keeping ERT open is a matter of democracy was repeatedly emphasized during the press conference.

Meanwhile, a cool Google Doc has been established to crowdsource websites and frequencies where ERT is broadcasting, and ERT staff were holding a protest in front of Parliament.

Finally, it was announced while the press conference was taking place that the Public Prosecutor responsible for corruption will be investigating ERT finances over the pas ten years. This comes after a request filed yesterday by the Finance Ministry.

12:09 pm: The press conference of the EBU president and director-general about ERT is about to start.

11:52 am: @DemiTheodori has just pointed out to us the existence of a European Council decision dated 8 November 2011 about the fiscal surveillance and austerity policies in Greece. Under the terms of article 1, the following paragraph is added to Article 2 of Decision 2011/734/EU:

6a. Greece shall adopt and implement the following measures without delay:
(…)
(i) ministerial decisions that initiate the closure, merging or substantial downsizing of entities. This affects KED, ETA, ODDY, National Youth Institute, EOMEX, IGME, OSK, DEPANOM, THEMIS, ETHYAGE and ERT, and 35 other smaller entities. [emphasis ours]

The European Commission’s statement that it had nothing to do with the shutdown of ERT hence appears rather questionable.

11:47 am: ERT is reportedly broadcasting via analog signal on 23 UHF in Thessaloniki.

11:03 am: Questions are multiplying about the role of digital broadcasting service provider DIGEA in the decision to shut down ERT. According to this useful compilation of reports compiled by a local portal from the island of Kefallonia, a key reason for the government’s decision could be an attempt to exclude ERT from a tendering process which is due to start on 30 June to assign the management of digital frequencies to a single provider for the next 15 years. The terms of the draft call for tenders indicate that it was designed in order to ensure that DIGEA, a consortium established by Greece’s six largest private TV stations (Mega, SKAI, STAR, Ant1, Alpha and Macedonia TV), would necessarily be submitting the winning bid. Given these TV stations’ record in supporting pro-austerity policies, and recent incidents of 902’s signal going off the air, DIGEA securing all digital frequencies would likely be a further blow to freedom of information in Greece. The fact that ERT does not exist anymore as a legal body means that it is now excluded from consultations before the call for tenders is even published.

10:28 am: The Rector of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University Yannis Mylopoulos reported last night that the Board of Rectors of Greek Universities urges the State to continue operating the public broadcaster. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Giannis Stournaras, speaking in parliament to present his plan to open an interim agency, insists that ERT is not being closed by merely restructured, and that a temporary shutdown was the only way to achieve this.

ERT staff released yesterday this video to deny various government claims regarding the need to restructure/shutdown ERT.

The video specifically indicates:

  • That closing ERT will not improve the State’s finances, but instead weaken them, as ERT’s budget is not allocated by the central government, and ERT is expected to pay in 2013 a total of €148 million to the State in taxes, social security and pension contributions, etc.
  • That the ERT licence fee, paid by households through their electricity bills at a rate of €4.20 per month, is the lowest in Europe. Furthermore, €1 of €4.20 goes to financing the company responsible for the electrical power market, not to ERT.
  • That €50 per household per year is a small price to pay for 4 TV stations and 7 radio stations who broadcast even in the remotest parts of the country where other media don’t reach, and across the world for the Greek Diaspora.
  • That the claim that the public does not pay for private TV stations is untrue, as private stations have not paid the State for the use of public frequencies, which translates into a loss of earnings of more than €300 million per year (meaning €50 per household, just like the ERT licencing fee). Private stations were also supposed to pay 2% of their gross revenue in taxes, which they failed to pay even after this was reduced to 0.1%. Even the troika demanded that private stations be made to pay a 20% tax from 2014 onward.
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