Greek political parties try to solve crisis around state TV closure

Thousands of demonstrators gather outside the Greek public television and radio broadcaster ERT headquarters in Athens, June 11, 2013.
Thousands of demonstrators gather outside the Greek public television and radio broadcaster ERT headquarters in Athens, June 11, 2013.

Greece’s governing coalition parties are to meet for a second time in three days to try and end a political crisis triggered by the closure of state broadcaster ERT.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will hold talks later Wednesday with coalition partners — the Socialist Pasok and Democratic Left parties — who have opposed his decision to switch of ERT’s signal and fire all its 2,700 employees.

The dispute has raised the threat of a snap general election in crisis-hit Greece, just one year after the last general election. But most analysts have argued that politicians are unlikely to gamble on the country’s vital bailout program given that opinion polls suggest no party would emerge the outright winner.

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange were broadly unchanged Wednesday, as markets in Europe drifted.

Pasok spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata demanded that the government switch ERT’s signal back on, in compliance with a high court decision this week.

But conservatives insist the public broadcaster will remain off the air until a more efficient state TV and radio network is set up.

“It’s fairly simple. A mistake has been made and it must be corrected,” Gennimata told private Vima FM radio. “It requires bravery to correct a mistake. But that is necessary. It’s not acceptable for an elected government to fail to comply with a high court order.”

Gennimata denied reports that senior members of her party were seeking Samaras’ replacement as prime minister.

Fired ERT employees have continued unauthorized broadcasts since the broadcaster’s June 11 closure, streamed mostly online and on disused analog frequencies, and have even expanded regional TV and radio programming this week.

Journalist and other media unions on Wednesday filed a law suit against Greece’s finance and media ministers, accusing them of violating the high court ruling.

ERT was axed as international pressure is growing on the bailed out country to fire public servants and speed up long-term cost cutting reforms aimed at making the country’s budget and national debt sustainable.

Samaras has described ERT as an organization under excessive union control that could not be reformed without closure. Opponents counter that ERT’s problems stem from decades of political interference in programming and hiring decisions.

Greece’s two largest labor unions are planning to stage a protest rally outside ERT headquarters, a building 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of central Athens that remains occupied by laid off broadcast workers for a ninth day. Protests in other Greek cities and towns are also planned to start at 6:00 p.m. (1500GMT), to coincide with Samaras’ coalition talks. – AP