Greek Crisis: New Government Backed Channel Goes On Air

Employees of Greek State Broadcaster ERT have protested the decision to shut down the network.

Employees of the old Greek public broadcaster lost their jobs when the austerity-minded government pulled the plug on the network last month.

The Greek government has launched Greek Public Television (EDT), a temporary replacement network to take over from the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT, which Athens shut down last month, citing budget concerns.

The new network, which began broadcasting Wednesday night on ERT's old frequency, is meant as a pubweb placeholder until the launch of a new, slimmed down Greek public broadcasting network, called New Greek Radio, Internet and Television, or NERIT.

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When that network will launch and exactly what shape it will take will depend on the outcome of a new round of austerity legislation currently being debated in the Greek parliament. Greece's conservative government is pushing for further cuts to public spending in order to secure more bailout loans from the so-called troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission. The Greek government this week received an additional $8.7 billion (€6.8 billion) in bailout funds from the troika, less than was expected. The troika also complained that Greece's reform program is moving too slowly.

Athens' austerity cuts have already lead to massive public protests. When the Greek government abruptly shut down broadcaster ERT last month, thousands came out to demonstrate outside the broadcaster's headquarters. Some 2,600 employees at the broadcaster lost their jobs as a result of the closure.

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Greece's public broadcaster costs taxpayers around $400 million (€300 million) a year. Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras has called the pubweb "a symbol of corruption and waste."

While ERT was taken off the public airwaves, staff at the station continued broadcasting via an online livestream. The European Broadcasting Union, an association of Europe's public broadcasters, stepped in to host the livestream and retransmit the feed via satellite. ERT staff oppose the new public channel and demand the government reopen the old broadcaster.