Thursday, 13 June 2013


“Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely.” - Thomas Huxley
The global financial crisis is a fact and many countries around the world are facing enormous economic, social and development problems as the world economies contract, financial markets become uncertain, unemployment rates increase and austerity measures by governments are now a commonplace policy as governments reduce spending. Perhaps nowhere have the effects been as widely publicised as in the Southern European member states of the European Union. The financial woes and economic trials and tribulations of Greece, Spain and Portugal, especially are constantly appearing in news reports. But not only – the world economy can be influenced by the fiscal health of a relatively small stakeholder in the EU, hence the heavy-handed approach to budgetary constraints, financial policies and imposed cuts and austerity measures imposed by the EU powerbrokers and the notorious International Monetary Fund.
The most recent controversy has been the decision taken a few days by the conservative Greek government, to shut down ERT, the country’s public broadcaster. This is one of the most drastic measures yet to reduce spending on Greek public institutions as part of the widespread and unpopular austerity measures. It is a move that has angered the journalists, politicians and unions, not to mention the long-suffering populace.
ERT has not been a massively popular TV service over its long history (presently having less than 20% of the Greek TV viewing public), and sure enough its administration has not been exemplary. The government has characterised the broadcaster as a rotten apple, suffering from chronic mismanagement, lack of transparency and waste. Even ERT employees admit that ERT had a questionable past, being used for political appointments and offering exorbitant pay to a few handpicked reporters, executives and advisers. It appears, however, that these were the exception and it is unlikely that the 2,700 employees who have been laid off by ERT were all on sinecures and had all been political appointments. Apparently, government sources, maintain, that one of the many sins of ERT was that not a single employee had been hired transparently or on merit – which is hard to believe...
ERT radio service has been on air since 1938. It is sad to observe that was not silenced during the German occupation of Greece in WWII, or during the military junta in the late 1960s. On June 11, 2013, ERT was switched off and thousands of people suddenly were unemployed. Furthermore, as well as the broadcasting having ceased in Greece, all international transmissions were also stopped. We received the ERT international service, here in Australia, and it was a reassuring, dependable and familiar service for us Greeks of the Antipodes. Turning the TV on and tuning in to ERT, one could maintain links with the mother country, hear the Greek news first hand, watch the religious programs, enjoy some well-produced documentaries and travel programs, and every now and then some entertainment value programming. Sure enough there were a lot of programs that were of little value and a waste of time and resources – but isn’t that the case with any TV broadcaster, public or private?
Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, has stood by his move describing ERT as “the symbol of waste and lack of transparency”. He continued in a public address by saying that: “We are not closing down public radio and television. In fact, it is only now that we are going to get proper public radio and television.” The Opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, urged President Carolos Papoulias to cancel an executive order closing ERT, however, the President responded by saying that he was powerless to do so. The situation became further complicated by protest rallies being held in support of laid off ERT staff, with thousands rallying outside ERT’s headquarters in Athens, and unions organising strikes.
This unprecedented draconian and remarkably rapid move by the Greek government has created world-wide interest and a tsunami-like response through social media, internet news sites, newspapers, radio and TV. The closure of ERT may precipitate a political crisis in Greece, whose fragile governing tripartite coalition is already in a precarious leadership position. Meanwhile, the government is reassuring the public by unveiling plans to open a slimmed down version of ERT in August, with an employee base of around 1,200, appointed on merit and without consideration of political affiliations. This has given rise to much skepticism and disbelief amongst the population, given the manner in which ERT was closed down.
The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, has asked the Greek government to reopen the state broadcaster immediately condemning its sudden closure as “undemocratic and unprofessional”. In a petition to the Greek prime minister, the directors general of 50 European TV and radio broadcasters including the BBC urged him to see sense pointing out that “public service media and their independence from government lie at the heart of democratic societies”. The other signatories included the heads of German, French, Swiss, Danish, Spanish and Italian TV. This is likely to fall on deaf ears, as the closure of ERT was a rapid way of fulfilling the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank’s demands that public sector staff numbers be shrunk by 2,000 by the end of the summer...
Attempts by governments or government agencies to financially stimulate an economy are a standard practice. An economic stimulus is the use of monetary or fiscal policy changes to kick start a lagging or struggling economy. Governments can use tactics such as lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and quantitative easing, to name a few, to accomplish this. It seems that the EU is forcing upon struggling economies of the Southern European countries directives and policies that have the opposite effect of economic stimulation. The closure of ERT is another of these counterproductive measures, which is causing hardship, discontent, increasing unemployment and the opposite effect to economic stimulation. The problems are deep and chronic, economic policies worldwide are not working and globalisation is having unfortunate and deeply problematic effects…

1 comment:

  1. Sign the petition to protest against the closing down of ERT: