Greek court orders state TV channel back on air

Greek court orders state TV channel back on air

ANKARA - Reuters
Greek court orders state TV channel back on air

A protester holds a small TV unit and a placard reading ‘Why black radio TV’ during a rally of leftist Syriza party supporters in Athens. AFP photo

State TV channels in Greece remained off-air yesterday as the political storm over the future of public broadcaster ERT rages on.

A Greek court on June 17 ordered the state broadcaster back on air while it is restructured, allowing squabbling coalition leaders to move towards a compromise that avoids early elections.

The ruling came six days after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras suddenly switched ERT off to save money and please foreign lenders, sparking an outcry from unions, journalists and exposing a rift with his allies.

The top administrative court appeared to vindicate Samaras’s stance that a leaner, cheaper public broadcaster must be set up but also allowed for ERT’s immediate reopening as his two coalition partners had demanded, offering all three a way out of an impasse that had raised the spectre of a snap election.

All parties claimed victory from the ruling, which failed to specify whether ERT must restart with programming as before or only partially resume operations until its relaunch.

“The court decision is essentially in line with what we’ve said: no one has the right to shut down national radio and television and turn screens black,” said Fotis Kouvelis, head of the small Democratic Left party in the coalition.

Hopes alive

Evangelos Venizelos, head of the Socialist PASOK party, also said the ruling vindicated his party’s line and reiterated that he was against going to early elections.

An official from Samaras’s New Democracy party - which has already scored a minor victory by securing the latest tranche of bailout funds partly due to ERT’s shutdown - said the ruling affirmed the government’s position that ERT had been scrapped.

“ERT is shut, ERT is finished,” said the official.

A live feed of ERT - whose journalists have continued broadcasting over the Internet in defiance of orders - showed workers breaking into applause after the court ruling. ERT’s Symphony Orchestra began a concert outside its headquarters, playing an old news jingle to cheering supporters.

“I’ve been here seven nights and this is the first time I’ve seen people smile,” said Eleni Hrona, an ERT reporter.