Parl’t debates bill on new broadcaster as TV channels strike [UPDATE]

A debate began in Parliament on Friday on a bill foreseeing the creation of a new state broadcaster, to be known as New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT) that is to replace ERT which was shut down suddenly last month on the orders of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The rapporteurs of New Democracy and PASOK, the two parties of the ruling coalition, both emphasized the need for a new state broadcaster that would put an end to a status quo where impunity prevailed while opposition rapporteurs accused the government of espousing despotic logic and confirmed that they would vote down the bill.

According to Constantinos Koutsogiannakopoulos, the government’s bill is aimed at creating a “unbiased, objective, free and fully transparent state television.

The legislation was rejected out of hand by Nikos Voutsis of the main leftwing opposition SYRIZA who said it contained “secrets and lies, dissimulations, ambiguities and coverups.”

The tense debate, which was to culminate in a vote later in the day, came less than a day after the House rejected a proposal by the main leftwing opposition SYRIZA for an investigative committee to be set up to probe the closure of ERT.

Addressing Parliament on Thursday, Deputy Culture Minister Pantelis Kapsis who has been tasked with setting up NERIT, said that 2,000 positions for a new broadcasting service would be announced on Monday, paving the way for laid-off ERT staff and others to apply. To begin with, 580 employees are to be hired for an interim broadcasting service on two-month contracts, which will be renewed, Kapsis said, adding that the remaining staff would be hired when the new permanent broadcaster is ready to operate.

As for ongoing talks with laid-off ERT workers, Kapsis said there had been progress on all issues but that a settlement was being obstructed by “a group of unionists who are determined not to leave the ERT building,” referring to the old broadcaster’s headquarters in Aghia Paraskevi, north of Athens.

Meanwhile most of the private television stations involved in setting up the digital broadcaster Digea joined a 24-hour strike on Friday called by unions in protest at the NERIT legislation.

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