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Cash-Strapped Greek Government to Temporarily Shut Down State TV

Greece's conservative government, under pressure to cut debt, will on Wednesday pull the plug on the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation.

In a sign of just how bad things have gotten for the Greek economy, Athens' conservative government on Tuesday said it would temporarily shut down state-run television and radio in a bid to save money.

Greece is under extreme pressure to cut its massive debt to qualify for bailout funds from European and international creditors.

A Greek government spokesman made the shocking announcement on Tuesday, saying the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, the ERT, would stop television and radio broadcasts early Wednesday morning. All 2,500 employees of the state broadcaster will be suspended until the ERT reopens, which the spokesman said would happen “as soon as possible” without giving a specific date.

The spokesman added that the government sees the ERT as “a haven of waste,” echoing conservative parties in many countries, including in the U.S., which see state backing of broadcasters, such as PBS, the BBC or Germany's ARD, as a profligate use of taxpayer money.

In response to Tuesday's announcement, the unions representing ERT workers at three terrestrial TV stations, its radio network and one satellite station said they would continue broadcasting.

Austerity measures across Europe have led to discussions about the level and kind of funding for public broadcasters, but Greece is the first democratic European country to announce a full shutdown of its state-backed networks.