MPs approve bill for new public broadcaster, hirings to start

Legislation paving the way for a new public broadcaster to be created after the government shut down ERT last month, was voted through Parliament on Friday, with the minister in charge pledging to create a service that would be free from political intervention.

“We have a marathon task ahead of us that will require a change of attitude,” said Deputy Culture Minister Pantelis Kapsis, who was given the task in last month’s cabinet reshuffle of setting up the new broadcaster. “That is why I am sending an honest invitation for you to participate in this process,” he told opposition parties, who voted against the bill to create a new broadcaster, to be known as NERIT.

All of the government’s 155 MPs supported the legislation despite several lawmakers expressing qualms earlier in the day. The bill did not receive any other support in the 300-seat House.

Kapsis said he envisioned the creation of a truly independent service. ERT had been criticized both for enjoying cosy relationships with Greek governments and for being beholden to leftist labor unions. “My vision is that some day a minister will call the head of news [at the new broadcaster] and will have the phone put down on him,” he told MPs.

The new legislation foresees the government appointing a supervisory council, which will be responsible for appointing the new broadcaster’s executive board. The council will serve only a one-year term.

The deputy minister said that he would stick by his commitment to hire as many as 2,000 of ERT’s employees to set up the new service on short-term contracts. An announcement for 580 positions on rolling two-month contracts is due to be made on Monday.

The government’s decision to shut down ERT on June 11 and fire its employees – numbering some 2,600 – proved a controversial decision and led to Democratic Left walking out of what was then a three-party coalition. The intense debate over the government’s handling of the matter continued yesterday ahead of the vote on the NERIT bill.

SYRIZA’s Alexis Tsipras accused the government of an “unconstitutional and undemocratic” action and said that the “hard core of the [Antonis] Samaras government despises democracy.” He also questioned whether Kapsis, a former managing director at Lambrakis Press, which owns 22 percent of private TV channel Mega, was the appropriate person to lead the new public broadcaster.

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