Is this the EU you were looking for?


The authoritarian capitalist regime that rules Greece has begun an unconstitutional and profoundly antidemocratic attack on Greek public broadcasting, yesterday announcing that all public radio and television stations were to be shut down by midnight. To understand what this means, imagine David Cameron sending riot police to shut down the BBC – just like that. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to defend ERT.

In recent years, there was a government-imposed culture of silence at ERT, making it almost impossible for any criticism of austerity to be heard. Nevertheless, ERT was the only source of culturally valuable television in Greece and has played an important part in Greek culture and history over the last four decades. Private television, meanwhile, is owned by a tiny handful of media oligarchs who are highly sympathetic to the neonazis of the Golden Dawn and who broadcast little more than hysterical nationalist propaganda, reality TV and other garbage.

Attempts to stop or reverse this disaster are being met with the usual measures of violence and blackmail that the Greek state deploys against any form of dissent.

This is an important moment in the history of Greece and Europe. Greek democracy is already in tatters, but this particular assault represents a new level of shamelessness, and not only a turning point – or perhaps a tipping point – for Greece but also a sign of things to come for all of Europe. Understand: we’re talking about a complete blackout of public broadcasting, without even parliamentary authorization, simply at the command of a single person. This is happening right now, in a European country, and the European Union knows this and supports this. That’s the same European Union which previously imposed an unconstitutional government on Greece, which for the first time legitimized the previously powerless far right.

That’s the future the European Union envisions. The EU is not the cosmopolitan, progressive force so many people imagined it was. The EU is tear gas and riot police and silenced journalists.

Is this the future you want?


  1. “Today the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) expressed profound dismay on behalf of Europe’s entire public service media community at reports that ERT – a founding Member of the EBU in 1950 – has been shut down with immediate effect. Emergency powers granted to the Finance Minister and the competent Minister have been used to stop ERT’s transmissions, leaving Greek citizens wishing to watch ERT programmes in front of black screens.

    In a letter sent today to the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, the President of the EBU, Jean Paul Philippot and the EBU Director General, Ingrid Deltenre urged Mr Samaras “to use all his powers to immediately reverse this decision”.

    The existence of public service media and their independence from government lie at the heart of democratic societies, and therefore any far-reaching changes to the public media system should only be decided after an open and inclusive democratic debate in Parliament – and not through a simple agreement between two government ministers.” – from the statement of the European Broadcasting Union

  2. “With the economic crisis already endangering the country that gave birth to democracy, the closure of ERT’s TV stations shows a contempt for freedom of information, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The government’s methods are incredible.” – Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders

  3. beavinator

    That is absolutely appalling, Jonas. I have no doubt that I (and many other Americans of my generation and below) would be a drastically different person today than I am were it not for regular exposure via public television to programming like Sesame Street as a child. I sincerely hope the Greek people’s fight to reverse this abominable decision meets with swift success! If not, it will truly be a sad day for democracy.

  4. James Patton

    This is absolutely outrageous. What enrages me most about it is that this is such a blatant, obvious and unashamed attack on something as innocuous and positive as a public broadcast channel. It feels like somebody is taking a good long piss on everything good that came out of the twentieth century.

    Sorry for the language but I just can’t express how appalling this is.

  5. BlueJay


    Yeah, that’s about it I guess. Any idea how likely it is that they’ll reverse the decision? (Or that it will anger enough people for something to change?)

  6. James Patton

    Well, I just wrote to my MEP expressing my outrage (in less crude terms than those I used here). I hope that helped a little, though I’m really not sure whether anything I can do could have an effect…

  7. To understand what this means, imagine David Cameron sending riot police to shut down the BBC – just like that.

    I cannot imagine that happening, for the simple reason that the Hutton enquiry, Leveson enquiry, and subsequent legislation has crippled the BBC’s impartiality and its nerve to stand up to the government – to the point where I truly believe the BBC would shut itself down if Dave simply asked them to. But why would he, when they’re doing such a great job acquiescing to the coalition, suppressing or ignoring significant issues, and being party to the coalition’s despicable attacks on human rights? Even Paxman’s been defanged.

    (I’m aware that this is all beside the point of your statement, but I believe the silencing of the ERT is a far more damaging blow against freedom of information than the possible shutdown of the BBC, considering the latter does a perfectly good job of suppressing information all on its own. I just wanted to give the BBC a kick in the ribs after I read about the upcoming Question Time again finding time for Nigel Farage)

  8. Actually, ERT was pretty much in the same state – run by government goons and (seemingly) defanged. But now the journalists have finally decided to speak up, and it turns out they still have teeth after all. And not just because they’re defending their own jobs! In fact, what they’re doing means they won’t be able to get new jobs (as per government threats) and may face legal penalties. It’s extraordinarily brave.

    Even Frankie Boyle said that there are many good people at the BBC, even though the organisation itself has been crippled. So I think the parallels are actually stronger than one might think. Neoliberal governments generally despise public broadcasting, even when it’s on their side, because it’s a democratic institution. I bet Cameron would do this too, if he could.

  9. Oh, I don’t doubt there are good folk at the BBC, and I do hope that when it comes down to it, they’ll speak up just as the ERT heroes have: I just think the situation isn’t quite as terrible as in Greece.


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