In making the one decision that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back, Greece’s Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has all but handed power over to the opposition with his government’s decision to shut down one of the most noted and venerable modern Greek institutions.
The closing of ERT is more than Greeks can and should be able to handle and it was immediately evident when Greeks took to the streets en masse as soon as the announcement was made.
Already Pasok and the Democratic Left are making bids to halt the shutdown of the channel while it purportedly re-tools.
Greece’s daily Kathimerini reports that Samaras briefly mentioned to Pasok leader Eleftherios Venizelos and Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis the possibility, stating that shutting down ERT might be the only way to meet the target set by the Troika of laying off 2000 civil servants by the summer.
Venizelos and Kouvelis were against such a plan according to a PASOK spokesperson. Unless some sort of compromise can be reached among the governing partners, this coalition is very much in danger of disintegrating.
ERT was created in 1938 and since then has been the voice of Greece, both inside the country and abroad. Like its counterpart BBC in the UK and PBS in the US, ERT is the personification of Greece; a voice for its culture, a salesman for its tourism, a window into Greece for compatriots abroad and a showcase for the diaspora in Greece itself.
Many of us who grew up in the Greek diaspora have memories of ERT as we summered with our relatives. That distinctive opening music to their nightly news always takes me back to my aunt’s rooftop in Pireaus and reminds me the memories, the smells and the sounds of an Athenian summer night. We were able to capture some of that back in our homes in North America when ERT started coming into our living rooms after the release of their satellite channel.
At least in my parents’ house it was always on in the background during Easter and Christmas, showcasing the traditions of the various parts of the country. From its Saturday afternoon old Greek movies where actors like Vlahopoulou, Vengos, and Illiopoulos came back to life to its sports broadcasting, this channel become one of the cornerstones of life in the Greek diaspora and a voice in Greece not influenced by profits and pleasing advertisers.
At this point though, still ERT tries to broadcast over the internet with people creating gateways for it to get its signal out.
It’s a testament to what this channel means to Greeks all over the world. It’s not just a television network, it is Greece.
Given the place this institution holds, shutting down ERT is probably the biggest blow to the Greek psyche yet. This simply shows a government that, at this point, regards nothing as sacred in order to meet the targets set by the Troika. This is a government that doesn’t appreciate the soul of Greece, that intangible spirit that, no matter how hard things are, Greeks always exude.
No, none of that matters to the current government it seems, if it stands in the way of economic targets. While the people of Greece will put up with a lot, there are limits and I’m afraid the Samaras government has now reached that limit.
I fully expect Venizelos to pull out of the coalition – the opportunity presented for another bite at the proverbial apple is too great not to take advantage of. When elections do occur, the people of Greece will vote accordingly and I can bet that New Democracy will not be in power after the electoral dust settles.
I wonder how long before there’s a for sale sign in front of the Acropolis?
Editor’s note: Anthony Alexiou is the host of The Tony Alexiou Show, a weekly podcast and the author of The Fall of the Republican Party. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario and has worked towards a Master’s of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Administration from the University of North Texas. Anthony has started on his next book titled “Daddy, What’s a Republican?’ that should be released this fall.