Greece to close state broadcaster to save money

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Greece flag. (AP Photo)

Greece flag. (AP Photo)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece is to close down all its state-run TV and radio stations with the loss of some 2,500 jobs as part of its cost-cutting drive demanded by the bailed-out country’s international creditors.

The shock announcement Tuesday widened cracks in the year-old conservative-led governing coalition, with both minority partners condemning the suspension of Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT.

Nonetheless, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou — a former state TV journalist — described ERT as a “haven of waste” and said its TV and radio signals would go dead early Wednesday. He said its 2,500 employees will be compensated and the company will reopen “as soon as possible” with a smaller workforce.

It was not immediately clear how long that would take.

“ERT is a typical example of unique lack of transparency and incredible waste. And that ends today,” Kedikoglou said. “It costs three to seven times as much as other TV stations and four to six times the personnel — for a very small viewership, about half that of an average private station.”

It is the first case of mass public sector layoffs in the recession-mired country, which has pledged to cut 15,000 state jobs by 2015 as part of its bailout commitments.

Debt-stifled Greece has depended on rescue loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund since May 2010. In exchange, it imposed deeply resented income cuts and tax hikes, which exacerbated a crippling recession and forced tens of thousands of businesses to close, sending unemployment to a record of 27 percent.

Greece’s POESY media union accused the government of sacrificing the broadcaster to appease its creditors.

“Bailout creditors are demanding civil service layoffs and the government, in order to meet its obligations toward foreign monitors, is prepared to sacrifice the public broadcasting corporation,” a union statement said.

Unions representing ERT workers at three terrestrial TV stations, one satellite station and its national and regional radio network said they would keep the stations on the air, and protesting employees gathered at the company headquarters in the Athens suburb of Aghia Paraskevi, together with opposition lawmakers and union leaders.

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