Greece’s public broadcasters still torn in two

Published: Updated:

The future of Greece’s public broadcaster remains unclear four months after ERT’s shock shutdown, as two rival stations continue their parallel transmissions.

With the new broadcaster Nerit not expected to run before 2014, the interim DT (Public Television) has been filling the gap since mid-July, with news and mostly stock footage.

At the same time, former ERT employees, refusing to accept their dismissal, maintain their rogue broadcasts from the station’s occupied headquarters in the northern Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi.

Four months after ERT’s shock closure, the deputy minister responsible for public television, Pantelis Kapsis, raised the issue.

“[The occupation] is a problem that has to be dealt with,” he warned this week.

Kapsis said the headquarters have to be evacuated, adding that this was a matter for judicial authorities.

“If the public broadcaster cannot be housed soon in Aghia Paraskevi, it risks not being able to cover Greece’s EU presidency,” he said.

Greece will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in January.

But after the international outcry caused by ERT’s June 11 shutdown, the government is well aware that a forceful evacuation could backfire.

In the occupied building, still covered with banners calling for resistance, defiant staff broadcast on the website ertopen.com, with the participation of numerous former ERT correspondents from abroad.

“What happened in June is unacceptable for democracy,” said 36-year-old Marina Demertzian while preparing the next news edition for ertopen, which has a strong presence on Twitter.

Just a few kilometers down the road, in another studio that belonged to the defunct ERT, journalists also prepare their news coverage for DT.

Some 500 journalists and technicians, part of the 2.700 staff made redundant with ERT’s closure, have been temporarily hired by DT.

Unable to access their former studios, they are currently situated in a nearby building which lacks the technical infrastructure required for proper news coverage.

“We don’t do television here, it is minor stuff,” complained anchorman Prokopis Doukas to AFP last month.

Like many of his colleagues, Doukas initially participated in the occupation but then decided to move on.

Housed in a building that only has one studio and with main opposition party Syriza boycotting its programs, DT broadcasts news shows on a daily basis but has not produced any original material.

The situation is frustrating for television producers, who are still waiting for tens of thousands of euros in salaries and compensation that the state owes them since ERT’s shutdown.

To avoid accusations of nepotism, the government has entrusted the setting up of new broadcaster Nerit to prominent independent experts.

But the head of Nerit’s supervisory board Theodore Fortsakis told AFP that the most likely launch date is March 2014, contradicting initial predictions of a December start.

“We wondered whether we should start with a light program in January or if we should wait until we are completely ready, which will be towards March and that is what we opted for,” he said.

“We want to launch three stations: one that will be cultural and educational, a second one that will be more commercial and a third one, for Greeks abroad."