Bulgarian public broadcasters ‘concerned and disappointed’ at closure of Greece’s ERT
Public broadcasters Bulgarian National Television and Bulgarian National Radio have expressed support for the European Broadcasting Union’s statement of concern and disappointment at the Greek government’s closure of public broadcaster Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, ERT.
The Greek government shut down ERT at short notice on June 11, citing waste and inefficiency at the public broadcaster, and saying that the broadcaster would be back only with much-reduced staff numbers later on.
Greek journalists have announced a 24-hour strike in protest. They were joined by other labour unions, which called a general strike that disrupted public transport and state services throughout the country.
In a joint statement, BNT and BNR said that they insisted on upholding and respecting the right of Greek citizens to access to unbiased information.
Public media played an essential role in the maintenance of this right, exercising a public function and guaranteeing the provision of objective news and high-quality content, satisfying the needs of the public, Bulgaria’s public broadcasters said.
“The existence of public broadcasting and its independence from governments is at the heart of democratic and pluralistic societies,” the statement said. National public radio and television were more important than ever at a time of national testing, BNT and BNR said.
Bulgaria’s Council for Electronic Media, the statutory regulatory body for broadcast media, endorsed the statement by BNT and BNR.
European Broadcasting Union (EBU) president Jean-Paul Philippot condemned the Greek government’s overnight shutdown of its national broadcaster ERT as an act of violence and “the worst kind of censorship”.
In a statement to Belgian TV station RTBF, of which he is also the Director General, Philippot said the voice of democracy was being brutally silenced in Greece “because the Greek government has sent in the police to cut off a broadcaster and stop journalists from doing their job”.
Philippot’s comments come in the wake of a joint open letter which he and EBU Director General, Ingrid Deltenre, sent to Greek prime mnister Antonis Samaras exhorting him to revoke his decision.
In the June 11 letter, Philippot and Deltenre urged 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,” the letter said.
In the letter, the EBU emphasised the importance of public service media as an essential pillar of democratic and pluralistic societies across Europe.
“While we recognise the need to make budgetary savings, national broadcasters are more important than ever at times of national difficulty. This is not to say that ERT need be managed less efficiently than a private company. Naturally, all public funds must be spent with the greatest of care.”
The EBU is on standby to offer its knowledge of Europe’s public service media to provide the advice, assistance and expertise necessary for ERT to be preserved as a true public broadcaster in the European mould, the EBU said.