The ERT struggle: The Final Count Down for the Greek Government?

The recent decision of the Greek Prime Minister, Samaras, to close down the public television and radio stations, caused a large mobilization and resulted in a crisis of the governmental coalition.

Since that day, representatives of trade unions, student unions, workers federations, party leaders, MPs, members of all left parties and many citizens have been gathering in the yard of the building of ERT. The situation was a sort of a celebration. People were talking in microphones expressing their solidarity, and the two orchestras of ERT were giving concerts, offering moments of great thrill both to the people and the musicians, bringing tears to their eyes. And it was highly impressive that in Greece, a country where people are not especially familiar with classical music, there were thousands of people in the ERT’s crowded yard, listening to the concerts, speechless and proud. Proud because they have been understanding that they were defending a very important thing, a part of the world’s culture. Because, on the contrary to what the government was trying to convince us, ERT is a very productive organization, offering programs that private channels never would, promoting young artists, cultural events, book publishing etc.
The minor party of the Democratic Left (consisting mainly of ex members of SYRIZA who left the party in 2010) that participated in the government along with New Democracy (right wing neoliberals) and PASOK (“social democrat” neoliberals) decided to step out of the government, disagreeing with the methods that Samaras followed in the case of ERT.
The government has adopted for the last year a very antidemocratic way of functioning. The majority of its most important actions are not approved by the parliament but are passed through some special decisions of the ministers. This, once again, is an overuse of extraordinary competences provided by the law for cases of emergency. One of these decisions gave the right to the ministers to shut down any public organization that belongs to their field of duty. So, the minister (son of a former minister and cousin of a new one!) responsible for issues of press announced the closing of ERT and the immediate dismissal of 2.700 employees in order to have it transformed.
Indeed, as a part of the Greek public sector, ERT was up to a point characterized by nepotism and it is true that there were some people on its pay roll without having contributed to the organization. Characteristically these people were hired by the same parties that now claim to transform ERT! So it was not too difficult for the employees to publish a list of consultants and functionaries hired by the government during the recent months. Almost all of them were either members of New Democracy and PASOK, candidates who failed to be elected in the last elections, or even close friends of the Prime Minister and the minister of press, getting salaries of 4.000 Euro. This is a typical characteristic of the Greek public administration, and it is essential to note that when Samaras was minister of culture, almost everyone that was hired to work at the newly constructed museum of the Acropolis were originating from his own electoral region!

Due to the closure ERT is now deprived of bidding in the public tender of  two digital platforms for Greek TV channels. This favors private organizations which will seize the opportunity to get hold of this important market. Also, the closure of ERT aims at creating a new organization, with much less personnel, lower paid and with a program of worse quality and lower viewing that will offer to the private TV stations more advertisement profits. These stations are fully supporting the government and along with the banking system they create a “triangle of political sin”, as Alexis Tsipras once described it. The banks give loans to the private TV stations, the stations support the government and the government offers public money to the banks for their recapitalization.
The new government, now consisting only of ministers of New Democracy and PASOK, offers to the people only a feeling of despair. However there now is hope again. And this hope comes through the awareness of the t that collective struggles can have achieve significant results. And the most significant one is to put a stop in the antidemocratic path that Greece is walking, due to its right wing government. And the issue of democracy is historically one of the utmost importance for the people of this country. The ERT struggle seems to have started the government’s final countdown.