THE LOST SIGNAL OF DEMOCRACY – a foretaste (trailer in English and Francoise)


The Lost Signal of Democracy, is a documentary about the shutting down of the public TV in Greece…

Today it is the 91st day since the employees of ERT “occupied” the building and all the machines and tools of ERT in Athens and have, since then kept it open on INTERNET and they have continued to broadcast, much better programs than ever, many argue. The NEWS-reports and the debates and analyses are by far the most serious of all the other big channels on Greek ‘air’ now. To by all costs, keep ERT open and to show solidarity with the fighting journalists, has become a very crucial struggle for the resisting movements in Greece.

ERT News in English

They say that the ‘padlock’ on ERT will have a financial benefit…  LIE!
ERT is not burdening the state budget with a single euro, contrary it adds to the state coffers. In 2013 it will pay for taxes, VAT, social security contributions and the debt, 148 million euros.

They say the hike is very ERT for a channel. LIE !

The 4.2 euros per month that each household pays is the lowest compensation rate in Europe. Of these, 1 euro goes to LAGIE, the company responsible for the operation of the electric energy market.

We pay 50 euros a year to get news, culture, sports from four TV channels. Seven radio stations broadcasting in the most remote
village. To Hellenism worldwide.

They say that the people does not pay for the private channels. LIE !

50 euro per month it costs each household for the operation of the private stations. Since 1989 that they emit they have not paid one penny for the use of the television frequencies, leaving a hole in public funds on more than 300 million euros per year. The 2% of the gross revenue that they had to pay was reduced to 0.1%, and they did not even pay that.

Even the troika made it easier for the private channels to start paying 20% tax on advertising from 2014!

The_Lost_Signal_of_Democracy_Poster_Bigpart

Keep your eyes open for it from Mid September.

The_Lost_Signal_of_Democracy_Poster_Big

A foretaste through these two ‘rough cut sequences’ in english and in french

DURATION: 52 min

COMPLETION DATE: Mid September 2013

Main Credits:

Written & Directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos
Producers: Yorgos Avgeropoulos, Anastasia Skoubri
Picture: Yiannis Avgeropoulos, Anna Prokou
Music: Yiannis Paxevanis
Production Manager: Anastasia Skoubri
Editing: Anna prokou, Vasilis Magos
Researchers: Georgia Anagnou, Ahilleas Kouremenos, Andreas Vagias
A Small Planet production © 2013-2014 smallplanet.gr

The Lost Signal of Democracy

Suddenly, in the afternoon of June 11, 2013, the Greek government announced the closure of the country’s public broadcaster ERT. The very same night, after 75 years of continuous operation, the public frequencies of TV and radio fell silent, resulting to a black screen and a buzz!

It was an unprecedented occurrence in world history. Nowhere around the world and never in well-governed democratic states, had the public broadcaster been silenced in such a manner that was characterized by both, opposition and members of the government alike, as “autocratic”. Within five hours, the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras turned off the switches, shocking the Greek citizens and causing waves of international reactions, as well as a serious governmental crisis.

The closure of ERT was an unprecedented political act, in the middle of the economic and social tragedy unfolding in Greece.

Why did the public broadcaster have to die?

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

“The Lost Signal of Democracy” is a 52-minutes-long documentary that reveals what was hidden behind ERT’s

“The Lost Signal of Democracy” encloses one of the most important and symbolic moments of the Greek economic crisis”

black screens. It records everything that happened from the very beginning, both on the day of the government’s decision as well as in the days that followed. It examines Greece’s public broadcaster’s past, the government’s interventions during its operation and its appointment of cronies. It also examines government manipulations made both on a communication as well as on a political level during the closure of ERT. Finally, it analyzes in depth all the possible reasons that led the Prime Minister to this decision, such as the requirements of the Troika, the control of information and the interests of private TV networks. “The Lost Signal of Democracy” encloses one of the most important and symbolic moments of the Greek economic crisis. Based on this decision, with which the government closed the public service broadcaster, other public organizations in Greece will also be shut down. All the while, a debate on the dark and uncertain future of public broadcasting networks, especially in those countries affected by the crisis, is taking place in Europe.

MORE ABOUT THE PLOT

The Greek Radio Television, ERT, is a typical case of unique opacity and extreme extravagance. And that ends today … The government decided to close ERT. Under the current legal framework and after the joint ministerial decision ERT will stop broadcasting after the completion of tonight’s program.

The statement of the Greek Government’s representative Mr. Simos Kedikoglou concerning ERT’s closure – ironically, through the channel’s own frequency, – shook Greek society and the country’s political landscape.

2,656 employees lost their work overnight, covering thus the number of dismissals of civil servants demanded at that time by the Troika, Greece’s lenders. The government pulled the trigger: “At a time when Greek people make sacrifices, there is no time for delays or hesitation. There is no room for tolerance and “sacred cows” that remain intact when cuts are made everywhere”, noted Mr. Kedikoglou in his announcement.

A DECISION REPLACES THE PARLAMENT

Citing the need for reforms in the economy, the Greek government has announced a program for the privatization of large organizations and the shrinking of public services.

In this context, a “legislative act” that bypasses parliament was promoted just a day before the closure of ERT.

In other words, a minister can simply make a decision to immediately close a public body without further delay.

ERT was the first organization where this practice was implemented. And there are many who fear that the same will be used for closing down public hospitals and educational institutions.

“2,656 employees lost their work overnight, covering the number of dismissals of civil servants demanded at that time by the Troika”

THE SHOCK AND THE LEGITIMACY

ERT’s “sudden death” was the result of the government’s first exemplary application of the doctrine of shock on Greek society.

By the shockwaves caused the government itself was shaken, when soon after, one of the three partners, the party of the “Democratic Left”, withdrew from the ruling coalition, denouncing the lack of democratic legitimacy, since the decision to close ERT never received the parliament’s approval.

Furthermore, the Council of State, the country’s highest court with an interlocutory injunction, asked for the public broadcaster’s program to be immediately restored, an order which the government of Mr. Samaras blatantly disregarded.

Eminent jurists and scholars of Greece complained that the government breaks the law repeatedly! Even a member of the coalition government’s majority party of New Democracy, former minister and professor of public law Prokopis Pavlopoulos notes: “At that moment I felt that the Prime Minister’s advisers had made a very big mistake. A constitutional mistake regarding the function of democratic institutions. We acted outside the constitutional framework and the Article 15 of the Constitution! ”

“This is not about firing 2,656 journalists, technicians and administrators,” says Anastasia Zigou, radio producer of ERT. “This is the ultimate act of trying to gag public service broadcasting. This blatant censorship is unprecedented. People were disconcerted when they saw the black screens and when they heard the buzz on the radio. “

#Occupy_ERT

Indeed, within a few hours since the government’s announcement, tens of thousands of people swarmed the buildings of ERT across the country, staying there day and night, contesting that the public service broadcaster remains open. The employees refused to leave their posts and remained in the buildings to preserve ERT’s assets and did not stop for a moment broadcasting a live program, which, as ERT had no signal anymore, was broadcasted on the Internet by the EBU and dozens of supportive websites.

“This has never happened before in Europe. Since the establishing of the EBU, no government has ever cut the sig

ERT IN NUMBERS
  • Employees: 2656
  • Wage costs: 92 million euro
  • Revenues from TV licence fees:approximately 300 million a year
  • 2012 Balance Sheet: + 68 million euro
  • Television channels: 5 (one of which in HD)
  • Radios: 29 (Athens, Thessaloniki and whole Greece)
  • Periodicals: 1
  • Website: 1
  • Culture: 3 ensembles (National Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of Contemporary Music, Choir)
  • Digital Archive

nal of a broadcasting”, said Jean-Paul Philippot, President of the European Broadcasting Union when he came to Greece to express his support.

The impact ERT’s closure had abroad was deafening. “Black screen on democracy” was the headline in the French newspaper Humanité that was issued sporting a black front page one the day after ERT’s closure. “We believe that what happens at ERT is but a foretaste of what can happen everywhere”, said the newspaper’s correspondent, Fabien Perrier, in a break from his reportage. “It’s unfortunately a foretaste in a country that has already experienced such things. I am thinking of the military dictatorship and the Civil War before that …”, “These events take us back to the darkest times of not only Greek but also of European history”.

ECONOMIC DATA

Even if as a government agency the public service broadcaster was, as expected, subject to pressure from the successive governments, it wasnevertheless connected in the minds of the people with the safeguarding of information and the preservation of historical and cultural memories recorded by its frequencies. Not even the military junta of 1967 made public television broadcast black, while ERT’s archive is considered a cultural treasure.

ERT was a miniature depiction of Greece’s public sector. Some were hired on merit some others not. All political administrations appointed voters on a clientelistic basis or served favors. The same government which closed down ERT had in one year appointed 28 “special advisers” and staff in special positions, some of whom happened to be best men, relatives and party followers of all three factions involved in the government. Even the government spokesman Mr. Simos Kedikoglou, who “executed” the government’s decision, was once himself a permanent employee of ERT.

During his announcement Mr. Kedikoglou noted that the closure of ERT is beneficial to the country’s economy. However, ERT was a profitable, autonomous and independent organization that did not rely nor burdened the State budget. Quite the opposite! In May 2013, it had a surplus of 40.97 million euro, while in 2012 a profit of 68 million euro, making it the 14th most profitable company in the country. It was financed through advertising but also from television licence fees paid by the citizens. With 4.25 euro per month (of which 1/3 was not flowing into ERT but to another unrelated service for the operation of the electricity market) Greek people had 3 channels nationwide, a satellite channel, a High Definition channel, two of the country’s most important orchestras, a choir, 29 radio stations across Greece, one website, one magazine, and a precious digital archive with countless hours of video and audio with the history of Greece and the world available online for citizens.

Finally, in May 2013, ERT was contributing with 50% of its revenue, or 129 million euro, to the black hole of the country’s debt. So why did the government want to close such an organization?

FAILURE TO GAIN COMPLETE POLITICAL CONTROL or “WE APPOINTED LEFTISTS!”

“One of the reasons for the closure of ERT is political. It is the failure to gain full political control – and when I say full I mean full, because there was control – on behalf of the government,” says Mr. Yorgos Pleios professor in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Athens.

“This has never happened before in Europe. Since the establishing of the EBU, no government has ever cut the signal of a broadcasting”, Jean-Paul Philippot, President of the EBU}”

Many members of Mr. Samaras’s New Democracy stated the same, namely that the journalists and technicians of ERT “made clear within the last year that they did not want in any way to support the legitimate government’s reform efforts.”The situation reached its climax when Mr. Samaras stressed during his speech at his party’s congress: “Everyone that has ruled until now made errors in ERT’s case. And the ones who benefited the most were those who did not govern. Certainly did PASOK appoint employees. So did New Democracy. But -because I do not like to mince matters – both parties appointed mainly people of the Left,”he stated!

ERT’s worker strikes had angered government officials, who felt that the government’s work was not being displayed as much as it should have. ERT’s failure to cover the news of the French President François Hollande’s visit in Athens and the Prime Minister’s trip to China were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

2000 DISMISSALS FOR THE TROIKA

“It was a “forced choice” from start to finish: We all had undertaken the responsibility to remove 2,000 employees from public services by the end of May in order to receive June’s installment. Everybody knew that…” stated the Prime Minister in a great Sunday newspaper, referring to the reasons which led to ERT’s closure. And he pointed out:“We could not proceed to “mass layoffs” in public organizations before evaluating job positions and personnel. I have to point out that as long as ERT existed, we could not dismiss more than 30 people per month! In order to reach the number of 2,000 more than five and half years would have to pass…! And we only had days before us…”

A WAR OF INTERESTS IN THE DIGITAL ERA

The black that appeared on screens awakened in citizens and official bodies the fear of a totalitarian, monopolistic control of information. In particular, the closure of ERT was followed by a plethora of accusations that the government was encouraging owners of big private media in Greece, who are at the same time also significant contributors to the country’s economic life, with activities in construction, the maritime sector etc.

What is particularly emphasized is the coincidence that the public body was closed down at a time when the competition in Greece for the allocation of digital frequencies had entered the final straight, heading to a new era marked by technological developments in television. ERT was the only competitor of DIGEA, a digital provider belonging to private mass media owners.

“We are standing before a cheerful monopoly, so critical voices have to be neutralized”

“I believe this competition is directly related to the closing down of ERT”, says Nikos Michalitsis, who was until recently Technical Director at ERT. “We know of the rabid support that specific private television stations have offered to the last governments that handled the memorandums, the austerity policies and what role they have played in the passing of these policies. We are standing before a cheerful monopoly, so critical voices have to be neutralized”, he adds.

The days when information and communication was made exclusively through free television are long gone. Thank god there are many effective ways for someone to communicate to the people what they want”, answers mr. Yorgos Mathios, chief executive of DIGEA.“Maybe we have to abolish one day this fixation that information is controlled, this is something that Europe has surpassed years now”.

“If the idea for tomorrow is to have channels exclusively in the service of shipowners or maybe contractors of public works or someone else, it is clear where the interests of such television or radio will lie. In this case, it is not about information, but communication, lest I mention propaganda”, says Fabien Perrier of Humanité.

RESULTS

ERT became a symbol of democracy. Almost 6,000,000 people from around the world are watching it online. The decision reminiscent of the dark ages of Greek history rallied around ERT laid off people from factories, pensioners and working people who suffer cruelly from the crisis. After a long time, it led great parts of society to demonstrate again on the streets.

Cornered by the lack of planning, from the laws defied, by employees who refused to leave the building as well as the general public outcry, the government promised to reinstate on the basis of temporary contracts 2,000 workers. And despite the fact that the Troika presented ERT’s closure as a great success, the lenders denied that the agreed upon conditions about the 2,000 redundancies had been upheld. They believe that the layoffs amounted only to 656.

Mr Pantelis Kapsis has been appointed Secretary of State for Public Television, bearing the responsibility to constitute the new carrier. Being a journalist himself, Mr. Kapsis stated that he did not like the way by which the ERT closed down with no plan. “People saw in the black monitor the darkness of their own lives” he noted, only to add despite the above statement, that “in difficult times such as this one we all have the chance to do whatever we can in order to create a better public television”.

At the same time, the cost for closing ERT exceeds “with moderate estimates, 300 million euro” ERT employees pointed out, who will now be added to the 1.5 million officially registered unemployed.

“The compensations for the 2,650 workers, the contract terms, the cancellation of program production agreements and the enormous costs for compensation of any kind are all being transferred onto the public accounting and onto the deficient budget”, they added, arguing that the mistakes made in the case of ERT’s surprising closure cannot be corrected.

About athenianvoice

Kosmas Loumakis - Sociological consultant, analyst, field operative and tactical field coordinator of national and regional social projects in Sweden. Was contracted for almost two decades by governmental bodies and NGO's, in governmental gang crime and extremism preventive efforts. Have produced a number of socio pedagogic action plans and developed methods, field tactics and strategies for gang crime and extremism preventive projects.

Posted on September 16, 2013, in Hot, Αρθρα στα Ελληνικα, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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