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Greece quietly launches new public broadcaster

AFP

A protestor holds a banner in front of the headquarters of the former public broadcaster ERT in Athens on November 7, 2013A protestor holds a banner in front of the headquarters of the former public broadcaster ERT in Athens on November 7, 2013

A protestor holds a banner in front of the headquarters of the former public broadcaster ERT in Athens on November 7, 2013A protestor holds a banner in front of the headquarters of the former public broadcaster ERT in Athens on November 7, 2013

At the stroke of 6:00 pm Sunday, a new logo appeared on television screens across Greece, quietly ushering in state-run broadcaster NERIT.

"Something new began at 6:00 pm," a voiceover intoned. "NERIT entered Greek homes, with pluralism and reliability, humanity and respect for culture and history."

The muted launch of the new broadcaster was in stark contrast to the public outcry that greeted the shutdown of its predecessor ERT last June as part of draconian budget cuts.

ERT's sudden closure after more than 60 years on the air shocked even austerity-hardened Greeks.

Many of its employees refused to accept the shutdown, defiantly broadcasting online from its headquarters until riot police forced them out.

The New Greek Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT) launched with a news programme anchored by Andriana Paraskevopoulou, a familiar face from ERT.

Athens abruptly closed ERT as part of a bid to rein in public debt and gain access to EU-IMF rescue loans vital to keeping Greece in the eurozone.

But the closure nearly brought down the coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after one of its allies defected over the row.

ERT, or Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, had its origins in the 1950s when the Greek state first created three separate radio stations for information, entertainment and music.

Widely seen as hopelessly bloated, by last year it had 2,600 employees, 19 local and five national radio stations, a choir and three orchestras and cost 300 million euros ($420 million) a year to run.

An interim broadcaster, DT, took over in mid-July, and many of its journalists have been taken on by NERIT.

Greece's To Vima newspaper on Sunday slammed the handling of the launch as "tragic" and "slipshod".

"After more than 10 months it's more than obvious that the shutdown of ERT was a hasty and slipshod decision," wrote Dimitris Galanis in the influential daily.

The Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions says the government still owes money to former ERT employees.

The "Troika" of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund has had to rescue Greece twice as a mountain of debt threatened to sink the economy and the euro single currency with it.

The country has been in recession for the past six years, but the economy is expected to return to growth this year.

Date created : 2014-05-04