Greece's public TV still off despite court ruling

AP News
Posted: Jun 18, 2013 3:54 PM
Greece's public TV still off despite court ruling

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — State TV channels in Greece remained off-air Tuesday as the political storm over the future of public broadcaster ERT raged on, despite a court ruling that the prime minister's decision to pull the plug was wrong.

The threat of a snap general election was averted late Monday after a meeting between Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his center-left coalition partners, who strongly oppose his June 11 decision to close ERT and fire its staff of nearly 2,700.

The three-party talks came as Greece's high court ruled the government should not have switched off the public TV signal, despite conceding that it had the right to restructure the broadcaster.

Samaras had indicated he wants a leaner and more efficient replacement by late August. But he offered coalition partners to start programming sooner under a transition broadcaster, and the three leaders agreed to continue negotiations. They will meet again Wednesday.

Samaras is under pressure from Greece's international bailout lenders to continue with austerity reforms in return for continued payouts from their 240 billion euro ($320 billion) rescue program.

Late Tuesday, Samaras met with senior creditor representatives who are in Athens for a new inspection of the country's efforts to right its recession-crippled economy and to narrow budget deficits.

Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras said after the talks that "significant progress" has been made, but provided no further details.

Though an imminent election over ERT's closure appears to have been averted, analyst George Tzogopoulos said the ongoing political crisis was making the government coalition look weak.

"The signal that is now sent to our partners in Europe and the markets is that this coalition is not stable any longer," said Tzogopoulos, a senior researcher at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.

Fired ERT workers have continued live broadcasts streamed online and satellite, helped by the Geneva, Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union, which represents the continent's public broadcasters.

On Tuesday, the EBU urged the government to restore ERT's signal immediately, citing the court ruling. Samaras has also faced criticism from international human rights groups and the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.

And in Brussels, EU Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said the commission expects the Greek authorities to "respect" legal decisions.

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange closed 1.16 percent higher Tuesday, as investors breathed a sigh of relief that an election has been seemingly averted.