Greek PM's offer on broadcaster rejected

2013-06-15 18:07
Antonis Samaras surrounded by media. (File, AP)

Antonis Samaras surrounded by media. (File, AP)

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Athens - Partners in the Greek coalition government on Saturday rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's offer to partially reopen the state broadcaster, saying it had to be entirely reinstated.

Samaras triggered a nationwide uproar when he and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras signed a legislative act shutting down ERT's television and radio stations last Tuesday in the latest austerity cutback.

But then Samaras offered to partially reinstate ERT.

"We do not agree with this proposal and we demand the immediate cancellation of the legislative act," Andreas Papadopoulos, spokesperson for the small leftist democratic Dimar party, told AFP.

Dimar is one of the three members of the ruling coalition, along with Samaras's conservatives and Pasok's socialists. The act was signed without the agreement of Dimar and Pasok.

Samaras heads the fragile coalition in a careful balancing act to enact unpopular austerity reforms in return for bailout loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Decision defended

Pasok, a pillar of the coalition, also demands ERT's reopening while recognising, like Dimar, "the need for restructuring" of the 60-year-old broadcaster.

Samaras called on Friday evening on his government partners to set up a body charged with resuming "immediately" the broadcast of information programmes before creating a new radio-television broadcaster, envisioned in a draft law presented on Wednesday by the government spokeperson.

Samaras's proposal "is not a response to what Pasok had said", a party official said.

"As soon as ERT reopens, we will agree to setting up a commission to elaborate a restructuring plan on the basis of European audiovisual bodies, which will be proposed over the next two to three months with the aim of reorganising ERT," Papadopoulos said.

In a column published Saturday in the liberal daily Kathimerini, Samaras defended his decision to shut down ERT, which he said showed his government's "political will and determination" to fight waste and lead his country out of crisis.

Samaras's administration is under heavy pressure from Greece's EU-IMF creditors to dismiss thousands of state workers to maintain access to bailout loans.

ERT has a long history of nepotistic hiring practises and government-biased news coverage, but it also provides an invaluable link to the Greek diaspora, border areas and isolated islands.

The government says it will compensate ERT's almost 2 700 employees and has pledged to set up a new public broadcaster with less than half the staff before the end of summer.

A crucial meeting on the subject is planned for Monday evening between Samaras and the heads of Pasok and Dimar, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, amid continuing protests at ERT headquarters and strikes by Greek journalists.

Read more on:    antonis samaras  |  greece  |  economy

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