The rise and fall of ERT

My generation was raised with a fabulous selection of children’s shows aired on state television. In those days, the programme of the day would kick off with a bucolic song followed by the Greek national anthem…

I remember watching the Duke’s and being allowed to follow the adventures of Michael Knight and his car cum companion. I cuddled up on our eighties’ sofa to watch the first season of Dallas in the company of my parents, until we all realised the bumpy road ahead and decided to wish JR and Sue-Ellen good luck and good riddance.

My early interest in languages made me a big fan of the educational programmes where one could learn English, French, German and Russian without even leaving the house. I remember my embarrassment once, when my mother caught me, to her amusement, pretending to be the Russian language teacher in front of a virtual audience.

Monday  evenings hosted televised theatre plays and on Thursday nights the big screen would enter our living rooms with a selection of movies from every corner of the world introduced  by a grey-haired cult cinema critic.

Then of course  came the days of private television with all the glam and bling. Series after series and peroxide blonds in the spotlight. New perspectives and fashionable pluralism as monopoly caved in to competition.

In the mediatic frenzy that mirrors the crisis of our days, state television has been something of a relief. I am not a television fan. I don’t even own a television, but  I see the value in quality entertainment and standards that do not merely abide by commercial laws.

No media is in reality totally unbiased and objective. However, I think that the sudden flick of the switch on the state broadcaster, ERT, by the Greek government left many people angry and disappointed.

In a public announcement, ERT was called a non-transparent, poorly  performing organisation basically eating up  taxpayers’ money. By pulling out the plug, the Greek government decided to finally do Greek people a favour and relieve them from yet another financial burden.

Somehow I cannot believe that  state television is  the answer to the big holes in the Greek budget. In any case, it was ritually sacrificed like a good old scape-goat.

I do not condone any kind of lack of transparency or mis-use of public money. However, the Greek people have endured severe salary cuts, high unemployment rates and all kinds of exceptional taxes and there is more to come. On the other hand, Greek politicians have unfortunately not proven to be a lot more virtuous than the organisations or actions that they condemn.

Whatever the critics say, I must admit that to me, ERT has to an important extent been the carrier of a modern Greek identity, a virtual space confined by certain  standards and  ethos.

I hope that the public outcry will make decision-makers stop and think. The reform of an organisation must be the result of concerted efforts and actions involving a multitude of stakeholders. Change must come from within and not as a consequence of governmental hi-jacking.

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