Monday 17 June 2013

ERT to re-open; yet another Political Fiasco in Greece

(written on Monday, 17 July at 22:20)

Press reports indicate that Greece’s Superior Court has ruled that ERT, the public broadcaster, must re-open pending the development of a new public broadcaster. The final decision will be published tomorrow (Tuesday 17 June).

The reaction at the ERT headquarters on Messogheion Street is one of jubilation. The message here is interesting: commentators, apparently drawn from a Communist Party protest and members of the ERT union, are claiming a victory for justice, “the struggle”, and many other causes. This is the first public reaction, and together with Alexi Tsipras’ political rally in Constitution Square, will allow the current staff of ERT, as well as the broader left to define the debate on this issue.

It remains to be seen what the final decisions are.

In parallel, Skai News has published a plan proposed by Prime Minister Mr. Samaras for the restructuring of ERT (i.e. establishing NERIT, the new public broadcaster):

1.     Improving the cooperation of the three political parties in order to continue the current government and not to endanger the bail-out programme, the tourist season, the attraction of investment, and the investigation of issues such as the Lagarde List.

2.     Immediate constitution of a commonly-accepted Governing Committee to undertake the organisation and transmission of the TV signal until the new broadcaster can be constituted.

3.    Immediate vote on the NERIT law by the Parliament.

4.     Rapid implementation of staff recruitment measures in social sectors (hospitals, social structures, citizen service centres) to recruit the staff fired from ERT.

5.     Reaching an agreement with the BBC or other European public broadcaster to develop the strategic and operational plan of the New Greek Broadcaster.

6.    Nomination of a deputy minister exclusively responsible for the New Broadcaster, to be chosen by Mr. Venizelos and Mr. Kouvelis. Mr. Simos Kedikoglou remains as Government Spokesman and Vice Minister of Media.

7.     Restructuring of the Cabinet after the New Democracy party conference on 28-30 June.

8.    Updating the policy programme between the three political parties which comprise the government.

9.    Adapting procedures for the better coordination of the three parties, and the correct implementation of agreed policies.

If these points are true, and are implemented, then this can only be characterised as yet another very expensive fiasco for the credibility of the country, as well as Mr. Samaras personally.

On the one hand, everyone agrees ERT needs to reform. The uncertainty has always been about what constitute a “good” reform, given the tremendous, bipartisan corruption engendered by both PASOK and New Democracy during their various administrations over the past 35 years.

The fact that Mr. Samaras proceeded to liquidate ERT, forcing it off the air with less than 12 hours notice, is unprecedented and highly undemocratic. The fact that he did this without a replacement plan in place sufficient to convince a majority of the population that reform would work is nothing short of criminal folly.

This is confirmed by several points:

·       According to opinion polls, 65% of Greeks disagreed with the decision to disband ERT in the way it occurred

·       There is still no plan for the new broadcaster—the BBC or another public broadcaster will  be hired to draft one

·       The financial numbers bandied about by Mr. Kedikoglou made absolutely no sense to determining the future costs of NERIT, and how it would be funded

·       The international reaction against the manner of the ERT closure has been nothing short of unanimous against the decision. Greece’s international reputation has once again been dragged through the mud, thanks to the hooliganism of her political leadership.

The points published by Skai leave many points unanswered—chief of which is point 4, which I confess I do not fully understand. If I read it correctly, it means that the staff fired from ERT will be recruited by other public organisations.

If this is true, it is a decision of disastrous magnitude. It sends the message that (a) organised political occupation and protest will be sufficient to block any reform measures, no matter how well they are organised, and (b) it will be impossible to reduce the Greek public sector in any meaningful way.

And this is the point I have been trying to make over the past week: by launching on a haphazard, unprepared political adventure, Mr. Samaras has weakened his own standing as well as the cause of real reform.

The burden of proof has already been on the government (composed as it is of New Democracy and PASOK, who have done so much to ruin Greece in the past) to provide that it can operate in a sustainable, strategic and transparent way. Without this, the sacrifices made by millions of Greek citizens to cope with economic depression and high taxes are impossible. 

Yet once again, we see that both parties have failed entirely to provide a reasonable, cost-effective method of “reform”.

While I hope this lesson will have been taken to heart and that further efforts will be better prepared, there is regrettably little in recent Greek political history to provide evidence in support.

© Philip Ammerman, 2013

Related posts:
12 June 2013
15 June 2013

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