Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Closure of ERT 11.6.2013

Note: since the shut down of ERT, the journalists have continued to broadcast via Internet - see http://www.radio.uoc.gr/ertopen/

The sudden decision

The decision by the government of Samaras to shut down ERT on 11.6.2013 has huge ramifications.

The lone decision by Samaras indicates not only a low regard for one of the most basic principles of democracy, namely the 'freedom of the press', but offers equally an insight into how so-called reforms initiated in the name of a wish to gain greater economic efficiency in the public sector amount in reality to be just 'crude measures'. By not only getting rid of 2700 jobs at one stroke when shutting down an entire public TV and Radio station, but by tampering with what constitutes something intangible, and hence has considerable value, it revokes any notion of 'public truth' as being worthwhile to be upheld.

Indeed, ERT as a public TV existing by now for over 87 years is closely linked to the history of Greece; its archive retains documentations which are crucial for both collective memory and cultural identity. Also as a public body, it has to exist in an increasingly dangerous sea. This is because of being full of private sharks, all wishing to sideline the public voice trusted by most people, in order to gain in advertisement revenues once only private channels exist.

By disregarding all of this, and in not anticipating what damage it will create, Samaras exemplifies how dangerous a politician he really is. Like so many of the so-called political elite, he displays a certain lack of experience. Most of the time he has been fostered abroad and moved in well protected channels. He received his university and post-graduate education above all in the United States where he shared ironically at one time the same room in a student dormitory with George (Yorgos) Papandreou, his main political foe for a while. Over and again he demonstrates an inability to foster friendship. Instead he prefers to back stab former friends since willing to go over 'dead bodies', in order to achieve his aims. What they are really, no one is sure. A clout of mysterious behaviour surrounds him. Since childhood he has shown a desire to out manoeuvre everyone else. Perhaps he does so just to show how much more clever he is than anyone else. It would suggest a deeply rooted inferiority complex. By seeking to gain advantages at the expense of anyone else, he demonstrates repeatedly that he knows how to use certain mechanisms to gain power.

However, all of this makes him into a truly tragic figure. For such an orientation leaves him such narrow space to do only one thing well, namely to serve the system blindly. Once in power and as prime minister, he seems to do that even more intensively - as if he cannot trust anyone else. Repeatedly he would cite as reason for shutting down ERT the need to fulfil the Troika's wish for greater efficiency in the public sector. This decision surprised everyone all the more so since till then he had taken as Prime Minister a seemingly calm approach to everything. He had even adopted a low profile approach and managed thereby to give the impression as if Greece was finally back on the right track to recovery.

Samaras had become prime minister thanks to a coalition government he managed to form with PASOK and DIMAR after the election on June 17th 2012. His seemingly calm way of handling things surprised all since before he was much more erratic than anything else. For instance, while the opposition leader, he did everything to make the life of George Papandreou when Prime Minister into sheer hell. Over and again he went to the extreme and denied the government any support whatsoever. His sole aim seemed to be at that time to topple the government and therefore force new elections. And during that time he gave no idea on how Greece could emerge out of a period marked by crisis and remained most ambivalent about his commitments to the terms as stipulated by the 'Memorandums of Understanding' existing since 2010. He refused even for a while to give his signature although he knew keeping these commitments was the prerequisite to obtain the necessary bail-out funds. If not, it was clear to everyone that the Greek state would have then but one option left, namely default and exit from the Euro zone. But once he had become prime minister himself, he altered his behaviour to the surprise of everyone. He seemed to have changed completely as politician. He worked hard, stayed mainly out of sight and became most conciliatory to the Troika and their demands. More and more an image was cultivated which suggested that he was able to ensure that Greece would regain stability.

But as the poet Yiorgos Chouliaras warned, even if the water appears to be calm, there are always strong under currents. Maybe they caught him unexpectedly, especially after the deal with Gaz Prom did not go through. That failure meant 50% of the deficit gap was not covered. Hence a kind of panic may have gripped him especially since the Troika was again back in town to check on things before the next payment would be released. Even so his sudden act to go ahead alone with the closure of ERT should not have come as a surprise. Rather this kind of eruption was to be expected from such a highly erratic, equally dangerous person.

After the decision became known late in the evening of 11.6.2013, we could see during the last minutes when ERT was still on the air that many people had started already to gather there. Thus I decided with my wife to drive close to midnight out to Agia Paraskevi, a suburb of Athens, and where the main ERT building is located. As we came close to the ERT building, we met a huge traffic jam and had to take side roads. It took us some time by circulating around the closed off main street before we found a suitable parking spot. When finally walking towards the building, then amongst many more people who were all heading in the same direction.



 People gathering on the premise of ERT

ERT is a public television and radio station. The sudden decision by the government to shut down ERT took many by surprise. Still, as a sign of something extraordinary happening, something not to be taken lightly, thousands of people went immediately out to the ERT building. They showed up to give a sign of solidarity with all the employees of ERT, the public television and radio, but by the same token to express their strong disapproval of the government's decision.

Soon the notion made the round that Samaras had made a colossal mistake in underestimating what support ERT has in the population. Even his finance minister, the academic Giannis Stournaras mistook a statistical report revealing a drop in the number of viewers of ERT, to mean the station no longer mattered so much and that it would not make any substantial difference, if shut down completely. Yet people want ERT to continue to exist even though they might not consult it every day. Surely the importance of ERT can be compared to the existence of parents in their lives. They shall not be called upon all the time but that their continual existence is crucial as this gives reassurance to their lives. Likewise people need a trust worthy public source of information which they can consult any time and whenever needed. As such ERT as a potential needs not to be used on a daily basis, but the significance of its existence should not be underestimated. This became evident in the countless number of people who showed up spontaneously to give their support to a continual existence of ERT.



     Part of the crowd gathered outside of ERT close to midnight 11.6.2013


The official justification for the decision

The government under PM Samaras decided per Ministerial decree (a law which does not need to be passed by parliament) to shut down the public television and radio station. He did so without prior agreement with his coalition partners.

The official reason given is that due to the demands of the Troika, the Greek government must get rid of 2000 state employees. Why this was not done in the numerous Ministries, one explanation is that the Minister in charge of public services bulked every time such a proposal was put on his table. This Minister belongs to the DIMAR party, one of the two coalition partners.

Also it was known repeated attempts to reform ERT had failed. Thus the official justification entailed indirectly the message that Samaras had run out of patience - not a good sign for a coalition government having just completed its first out of four years, provided it does not break apart. Nevertheless the decision was made by counting on the willingness of the coalition partners to go alone with it as they would not want to head for elections. Samaras counted on that wish to stay in government and in power rather than depart into obscurity.  

The government spokesman claimed furthermore that ERT was highly inefficient, costing too much money and all the more a waste since its program were below standard. He announced as well that the government had the intention to establish a new, but smaller entity and to hire young people, and all this with the promise that the new unit shall be run more efficiently. The spokesman of Samaras stated with this decision the current operational costs of 300 Million could be reduced to 200 Million as the estimated cost of the new unit, and therefore, so the claim, it would amount to a saving of 100 Million.


Some other motives for the closure

The language used by the spokesman of Samaras was hard as if filled with hatred. Indirectly he risks to verify a term used by the neo-fascist party Chrysi Avgi. The latter claims ERT has insulted 1 million Greeks. Presumably meant by 'insult' is a claim by the party that it was not given sufficient broadcasting time to convey its extremist views to the general public.

Still one incidence should not be forgotten. It simmers as an unresolved affair in the background and which happened at ERT. For the Press Speaker of Chrysi Avgi struck down one woman with three blows with his fist and threw water in the face of another woman when they were all on the same talk show aired by ERT. It took place one evening before the election was held last June 17, 2012. The member of the Chrysi Avgi vanished immediately thereafter to escape arrest, and once elected to the Greek Parliament the next day, he enjoyed since then political immunity. It was to be lifted during these days, so that he could stand trial.

Interestingly enough during the previous weeks, there was debated as well what to do with Chrysi Avgi as the party has continued to incite hatred. Should it be banned or not? Samaras was against such a measure. Then there happened most recently a shuffle between Kamenis, the mayor of Athens, and one MP of Chrysi Avgi. The latter attempted to strike a blow at Kamenis but he ducked and instead the punch ended up in the face of a twelve year old girl. Also the MP had a gun on him. He was disarmed by guards of the mayor and escorted outside. The mayor had ruled against the party which wanted to do again an action with the aim to distribute things solely to Greeks and only to Greeks - a most discriminatory practice. It can and does feed on a nationalist sentiment which threatens to become in a period of crisis ever more extreme.

In such a context hatred can easily be incited against a public radio and television station in various ways, the most effective being a distortion of public truth. That is all the easier when even sober minded Greeks are ready to admit that ERT was bloated with too many political appointees and therefore tend to agree the number of state employees has to be brought down from the present 2 700. Yet cutting something down to a workable size differs from shutting down an entire institution which is on top of everything else the public radio and tv station.

What the reference to ERT as being apparently an 'insult' shows as well is how an ontological mind set can block out any cultural development. As explained by the philosopher Bart Verschaffel, it took a long time for Western Societies to allow for the articulation of not only public truth in public spaces, but also to allow this opinion to be questioned by others. Never should the questioning of one's opinion to be taken as an insult. That is, however, the case, if one's own opinion is considered to be sacred and above any doubt. Once questioning of one's opinion is taken solely as an insult, human reasoning would be terminated and not allow for an understanding of culture as an ongoing search for truth.

Generally speaking, Samaras followed a hard line to satisfy the demands of the Troika. Perhaps he calculated that enough Greeks were dissastified with ERT, that he could get away with it. Presumably he counted as well on the fact that while world attention was focused on what was happening in Turkey, no one would pay attentention when something far less drastic happened in Greece. He and his spokesman painted consequently ERT as a place of waste and reinforced the negative public image as if its employees enjoyed special privileges, received higher than average pay and still were unable to produce decent programs. Even if there is some truth to these allegations, he miscalculated the response by people to his decision. He seemed not to have realized the extent to which ERT was much more than a mere institution. As a public TV and radio station, it is deeply embedded in the history of Greece. As one headline put it ironically, Samaras served a first insofar as ERT had survived the Nazis and the Junta, but not the Troika. (1)


In memory of the Greek Junta 1967-74

Often the existence of the Junta is either completely forgotten in Greece, or else some people argue without giving it much further thought that Greece needs a Junta to get out of this crisis. Any affirmation of whatever form of dictatorship implies things can be done apparently only at the command of one man. There is always this dangerous cult of a leader in the air, and not only in Greece.

A lesson can be drawn out of what Germans thought first about Hitler: finally a politician who does not just talk, but gets things done. This emphasis upon 'action' implies a negation of 'theory' and is based on a deep anti-intellectual sentiment. Naturally all what Germans were worried about after the stock market crash in New York 1929 was how to get back on their feet i.e. have a job. Yet if no one asks but under what conditions are these jobs created, and in the case of Hitler, it meant a clear preparation for war, then political freedom is given up for the sake of a fake security! And then what?

When I was in Greece for the first time in 1966, there was already the smell of the Junta in the air. In 1967 the putsch came. It took everyone, in particular the trade unions, by surprise. The putsch plunged Greece into a brutal dictatorship from 1967-1974. Many of the opposition landed like Ritsos in jail or else they managed to escape into exile. Merlina Mercouri did her campaign abroad. For everyone it was an odd contradiction to see in the birthplace of democracy dictatorship. Günter Wallraff chained himself to a pole in Syntagma Square. That was just one of the many actions out of solidarity. The student uprising against the Junta in 1973 is still remembered on Nov. 17 of every year. Yesterday, while the crowd gathered outside the ERT building, these memories were revived. The people outside the ERT building started to shout: "Junta, Junta", and meant Samaras and his government, or else they chanted the anti Junta slogan: "food, eduction, freedom!"


Recapitulating of 'breaking news' on 11.6.2013

Late into the evening but before midnight on 11.6.2013, we happened to witness live while watching a talk show of ERT, how the public television was shut down. The moderator of the political talk suddenly announced this was the last minute of the broadcast. She proceeded to  hand over the microphone to the technicians who took over to run an emergency broadcast, and this in defiance of the governmental decree.

Already parts of the ERT complex spread throughout the city and the country - before going off the air there were seen scenes in Iraklion with Ross Daley among others speaking out against the closure -  were affected by the shut down. At the ERT studio down town in Athens the police had surrounded the building, in order to prevent anyone entering but also from leaving the building.

Rightly so people called it a coup-like stroke as it reminded them of an act by a Junta, and not of a democratically elected government which is accountable to all people, and in terms of power sharing as well to its coalition partners. Apparently Samaras had gone ahead without having the agreement of his coalition partners. That is why the decision was not passed by Parliament but the result of a sole Ministerial decree.


Reason for the solidarity of people with ERT



The crowd which gathered outside the ERT building started to sing as well songs which Theodorakis had made famous by putting the poems of Ritsos to music, in order to protest against the Junta. The poet Ritsos had been for many years in jail. When I arrived in Athens in 1988, I still managed to speak with him on the phone but before we could meet in person, he died. One of his collections of poems range under the title 'stones, iron bars and closed windows' to remind of the time he had spend in jail. Today there is the risk of another kind of prison: one of silence best understood by not talking about certain things.

When people chant as well the anti Junta slogan: 'food, education, freedom', then to remind that these three basic elements everyone needs if to live in dignity in society.

Today, there can be encountered in Athens countless numbers of beggars in the streets. Many are tempted in order to survive to commit petty thefts. Other acts of desparation are on the increase e.g. suicide. Altogether the health and mental condition of people is deteriorating. Amongst the youth one prime concern is how to deal with 'rage'.


Outside the ERT building 11.6.2013


One prime reason for this strong show of solidarity with ERT is due to the public TV and Radio station being deeply anchored in the mental fabric of ordinary Greeks. It constitutes a part of the collective identity. Also it has a lot to do with the fact that ERT services remote areas and villages where otherwise private channels would not bother to reach, especially if not commercially viable. Moreover ERT is a living archive. Whenever days of remembrance are observed, it does make a difference when footages of what happened on that day in that specific year can be shown. This kind of memory work is invaluable and serves the purpose to give the collective memory a foundation to which people can refer to whenever they narrate to younger generations what happened during the painful years of occupation, civil war and Junta period.

Unfortunately Greece is a society in which there is a strong 'continuity of discontinuity'. Repeatedly archives have often been raided, files burned, in order to just to cover up who collaborated with the Germans or else was engaged in the radical Left wing movement. These were equally compromises made whenever the one or other party, Nea Democratia or PASOK, came into power. Consquently despite reassurances files exist in order to know what took place during those terrible years, scant attention is being given to the need for authentic archives. In absence of a proper validation procedure, all kinds of rumours and fictions based not on facts but hear-say prevail. That makes also reconciliation with Germany over war crimes more difficult.

One reason for not keeping written records is a deep seated fear of anything written as if this is a final word on everything, and therefore stands contrary to the basic political notion that everything must till the very last moment not answer to history or to the Gods, but be negotiable. No better figure than Odyssey embodies this thanks to Homer having given already in his time to people a kind of self confidence which does belittle facts and can surprise anyone for what seems hopeless can be transformed equally into a miracle like turn around. 

The fact that archives are not valued as much as they should, a clear indication has been the neglect of a treasure insofar as the Documentation Centre for European Capitals of Culture existed but for two years, and then the doors were shut as if it no longer matters what upholds the story of cities becoming like Athens was as first city in 1985 a European Capital of Culture. This neglect is more than outrageous but it does not seem to bother anyone. The mayor of Athens, Kamenis, delegated the archive to the International Department of the City of Athens, and there it has been shut down since 2009, that is after only two years of active existence.

In short, a society without memory would be clearly lost in a confusing array of acclaimed stories but without knowledge as to where truth in reality lies. On the other hand, someone like Spyros Mercouris demonstrates constantly a colossal mind which can remember appointsments, telephone numbers and people's faces, but this is an outcome of the education system which trims everyone to memorize knowledge for the sake of just passing the exam.


A further analysis of problems faced by Greece in a global world

The problem of any society within a global world going ever more violent has been well addressed by Satchi (see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/poetry/k-satchidanandan/poetry-against-violence-by-k-satchidanadan/).

Added to that is the problem described well by Waqas as being the result of Post-Colonialism. (see http://poieinkaiprattein.org/international/india/the-marketplace-of-voices-by-waqas-khwaja/) He says that a society in which the elite imitates the colonial masters will always persue only those models imported from somehere else and therefore do not allow for such cultural adaptation which allows a coming to terms within the own lived reality. That reality will always be cast in doubt. It is a part of the secrets of how to govern the colonised.

All over the world people of many walks of life have a great deal of experience with what pain these post colonial times entail. Over time they have learned to recognize the danger to be without self esteem. It would mean a lack of energy to bring about such dignity which would mean the ability to stand up for oneself and for others, in order bring about a life in freedom and in substance. The latter stands for both meaning and honesty. Unfortunately meaning is often confused with a religious search for meaning in life and here ex chancellor H. Schmidt in Germany said a state could not provide that, but he forgot that a meaningful life means a decent work with meaning insofar as it meets needs of others and allows besides earning money as well personal development. Today many Germans end up in precarious jobs and volunteers doing the work in posts meant to be permanent jobs with good payment. Therefore most people employed are not allowed to participate in further education measures e.g. attending conferences or taking further courses of qualification. Hence they cannot keep up with latest developments even though they have to deal with questions they confront while doing the work in museums and other institutions. In other words, meaningful work has to be linked to personal development and that includes also the political courage to say the truth rather than succumbing to the inner fear to lose the job, if an unpleasant truth is told.

Thus if the model of learning has always been a fake imitation like the obedient servant who pretends to do everything his master demands by reading his lips, and this is to a far extent the case in Greece and not only in India or elsewhere, it means that problems cannot be discussed in public and instead things are being done behind the back of everyone. It has become standard practice to use connections to get a job and it prompted that what everyone calls 'corruption', including kick back practice i.e. paying under the table the person who employs you a part of the official salary as thanks for getting the job or contract.


A first assessment

Here in Greece the shut down of the public television and radio station ERT is a most dangerous precedence for a society which has suffered civil war and dictatorship. Yesterday's decision by Prime Minister Samaras is meant to show determination to the Troika that the government is able to reduce the number of civil servants considered to be the reason for the failure of Greece to have its budget under control. Thus bureaucracy has become the alibi and the key carpet under which are swept all problems. This is a most undifferentiated stance to take, for we know the huge discrepancy between politics as legislative work to pass laws and adoption thereof into administrative law has brought about this huge confusion in people's minds but which law to follow. Often politicians intend this confusion by passing new laws to appear in public as being efficient. It is forgotten the word 'economy', namely the fewest rules by which to govern by is most efficient. Instead the creative powers in administration overload everyone with rules and regulations so that a silent revolt begins to counter this by people just going ahead what they think can be done best under the given circumstances. And so the Troika has applied the formula of privatization as the key to the solution. Yet if only crude measures are applied by making cuts in salaries and pensions across the board, then this is no longer a way to bring about such a working order which guarantees people a dignified life and a clarity as to what is rational not only for the individual, but for society altogether.

Here we have the failure of the Enlightenment to explain what politics does mean in reality. Thus we have a gross concept of anti politics so that only few decide according to technocratic solutions, and this means literally millions have to suffer for the mistakes of a few who wanted to enrich themselves at the cost of everyone else.

ERT has all the memories of modern Greece in its archive. It was the public voice and face of Greece. To see this morning a blank television screen says it all what is this new reality to which Greeks woke up to this morning. The decision and implementation took place within 24 hours and is described by people as coup d'etat but which has the support of all those who wish to push Greece even further to the brink of a completely demortalized society. This includes EU Commissioners who praise privatization as if the solution par excellence. I find that incredible irresponsible and it means the abuse of the public good. In the end, there will be no public left to legitimize any political step and then only private speculators - the director of the Piraeus bank has over risked all the capital to become the biggest bank in Greece and he did so to qualify for a special EU fund set up to bail out those banks which are too big to fail: an example of the absurdity of such tactical logics virulent also within the domains of the European Central Bank - and haphazard guesses as to what is the right decision will mean governance by means of a permanent crisis which sustains itself since people will get ever deeper into trouble with what they cannot cope with alone. That means people are left alone. The result can be seen in the streets of Athens for the homeless and beggars are on the increase.

Since dramatic words do not suffice, and this is one important lesson Malta can give, appreciation of each other will allow for recognition of what are crucial and important steps in need to be taken. Hence I find it most encouraging on how V18 has been formulating the problems, in order to create space for culture to address them and to bring about such experiences which will sustantiate the language to be used when proposing solutions.

I do hope we can learn out of this in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Politics is crucial as decision making process but it requires an active culture in search of truth to ensure this is done on the basis of people staying independent from any kind of deception and manipulation. The shutting down of a public television and radio station is a blow to this public literacy any democracy needs to function.

Since this is written out of a deep concern for what will mark not only the future of Greece but of our lives within Europe and a global world turned increasingly violent, I want to repeat that people need a sign of optimism that they do not stand alone in this wish to overcome just plain bad politics. For that honesty is a crucial prerequisite if all are to find a way out of this mess. Meant by this is the huge state deficit and which confronts everyone. Insofar as Greece is just exemplifying something very critical, it matters how things are resolved in conjunction with budgetary concerns. As to the political decision by the Samaras' government, it needs no reminder that every putsch begins by seizing control of or else shutting down the public media. A society without a voice of independence is lost as it has no orientation.

hatto fischer

Athens 12.6.2013


 1. Derek Gatopoulos, "ERT survived the Nazis and the junta but not the troika".


2. Jordi Balta from Internets wrote on 12.6.2013:

"A few days ago I attended a seminar in Barcelona where the European Citizen Initiative for Media Pluralism was discussed - the aim is to call the European Commission to approve a Directive on Media Pluralism, addressing existing concerns in this field (media concentration, lack of independence, etc.) and reinforcing the importance of public-interest media. There's further information at 


but the number of signatories remains quite low for the time being. The issue came back to mind upon hearing the news coming from Greece on Tuesday."

3. The DIMAR party did indeed leave the coalition government in the days after the decision to close ERT was not revoked by Samaras, and this despite a court ruling in favor of DIMAR's demand to keep ERT open to operate. The decision became publically known on Friday, 21.6.2013. Consequenty the party withdraw its two Ministers and sub-Ministers along with the General Secretaries it had appointed and thereby opted for a possible tolerance of the current government in Parliament. The withdrawal of DIMAR means that the government of Samaras has lost credibility and political legitimacy given to it by DIMAR participating in the government. Now only Nea Democratia and PASOK rule together with a slim majority of 3 seats, and thereby the new situation means an increase in risk that this government will fall before its full legislative period of four years has been completed.

4. Giorgos Kogiannis, "Journalist responds to Samaras' claims of ERT graft". In: ENET English, 19.June 2013:

When Samaras' asks, Kogiannis ponders, whether it "it possible to implement reforms without kicking out those who were so well ensconced in their jobs", is he referring to the 30 or so advisors and special staff appointed since his government came to power.

These include Giorgos Antoniou, a koumbaros [meaning best man, bridesmaid or another non-blood relative linked by baptism rituals, such as the godparent of a family member] of Samaras, who was appointed to ERT on a monthly salary of €3,500 and Menelaos Sevastiadis, a koumbaros to Samaras' communications director George Mouroutis, who was also hired on €3,500 per month.

Kogiannis also asks whether Samaras' claims that a state prosecutor is investigating mismanagement at ERT also involves the complaints filed by ERT staff about some of the decisions taken by people appointed by his government.

Among these complaints is the allocation of €1m to a show called "Mesogeion 136", which Kogiannis claims was created to give a job to Anthi Salagkoudi, a former New Democracy candidate and daughter of former New Democracy finance minister Yiorgos Salagkoudis, as well as other relatives of New Democracy officials who got jobs with ERT. Kogiannis says ERT's legal department refused to sign the contract with this show's production company, a contract that was drafted by Aimilios Liatsos, who was brought in to head the news at ERT by the Samaras government.

On Monday, Kogiannis tweeted the following figures that show that while salaries of regular staff at ERT may be somewhat higher than the national average, they are far from extravagant. The same, though, cannot be said for the salaries of those appointed to the broadcaster by the government.  


Monthly salary (gross)

Monthly salary (net)

Administrative staff


















Political appointees



Special advisors



Special positions



Personal assistants 







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