Cuts, mergers announced at state broadcaster

The creation of a state broadcasting company that is ?not politicized? with greater emphasis on multimedia platforms and which is cheaper to maintain are at the heart of the sweeping changes announced on Friday by State Minister Ilias Mossialos.

?This is a big and difficult task but conducting policy in government means taking difficult decisions and putting things into practice,? said Mossialos, adding that an independent committee would look to the management structures of state broadcasters in the UK, Sweden, France and Germany for examples to follow.

However, apart from overhauling the philosophy at state TV channels and radio stations, which is seen by many critics as being susceptible to the same inertia and political favoritism as other parts of the civil service, the reforms fit in with the government?s broader plans to reduce spending. Mossialos said that the streamlining of public broadcasting services would save 8.3 million euros by next year. Just over a million euros will be saved by the vacating of several buildings that will be used by government departments.

The measures announced included the closure of ET1 and state broadcaster ERT?s digital channels Cine Plus and Sport Plus, which had recently merged into one. ERT?s other channel on the digital platform, Prisma, will remain. Satellite channel ERT World will continue in its current format.

The closure of ET1 is a sad end to Greece?s first TV station, which began broadcasting in 1966. Mossialos said that ERT would place greater emphasis on delivering multimedia content to reflect the current trends in the consumption of news and entertainment.

Public radio ERA will also be affected by the changes. Five of its 20 medium-wave transmitters will be shut down and 19 regional stations will be merged into nine. Thessaloniki, which had three state radio stations, will only have one.

In a significant development for foreigners living in Greece, Mossialos said that the City of Athens?s multilingual radio station, AIR 104.4FM, would be merged with ERA?s Filia 106.7FM, which also carries programs in several languages, including English. This appears to solve AIR?s problem with its broadcasting licence, which led to the station being taken off the air a few months ago.

New Democracy?s media affairs spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said that Mossialos?s proposals raised more questions about how ERT will be run than they answered. He also criticized the decision not to pass on any savings to Greeks, who pay for ERT through their utility bills.

Unions representing workers at the state broadcasting company said that they would protest the changes.