A man holds a child, in front of the ERT3 building during a protest . (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's new state television channel began airing news programs Wednesday, more than two months after the government's abrupt closure of state broadcaster ERT drew international condemnation and triggered an acute political crisis.
The move came as the European Broadcasting Union, the world's largest association of public broadcasters, halted the relay of programs that the sacked workers of the now defunct ERT have been producing since the closure. Since ERT was shuttered on June 11, ERT workers have taken over the company's building in Athens and produced 24-hour programing that the EBU has been streaming by satellite and the Internet.
Greece's conservative-led government cited the need to cut costs due to the country's severe financial crisis when it abruptly closed ERT and fired all 2,700 staff. The ensuing outcry led to a small left-wing party withdrawing from the country's fragile three-party governing coalition, leaving the government with a tiny majority in Parliament.
The EBU announced earlier this week that it would halt its streaming of those programs Wednesday morning because ERT's interim successor was to begin news programing. So far, a temporary state broadcaster set up after ERT's closure had been airing mainly documentaries and old Greek movies.
In a statement posted on its website, the EBU said it "believes that independent public service media is indispensable for democracies, culture and societies" and that when ERT was abruptly shut down, it "felt it had no option but to immediately take action to prevent Greek screens from remaining black, by carrying the satellite signal being produced by former ERT staff and streaming it on our website."
As a result, it committed to helping out until a basic public service media output had been established.
"This pledge has been honored," EBU said.
ERT unionists vowed the programing by the sacked workers would continue via the Internet. While sites that had been using the EBU transmission went dead as the signal was cut at 10 a.m. local time, (0700 GMT), news programing with the old ERT logo continued uninterrupted via another site.
Greek authorities recently announced that more than 500 people had been hired on a two-month contract for Greece's new interim state broadcaster, which so far has born the simple logo of 'Public Television.'
Its first news program, a two-hour broadcast that began at 8 a.m., Wednesday, focused mainly on the analysis of domestic news by a panel of journalists, but also included international news items based on the BBC website and footage from Al-Jazeera and British broadcaster Sky News.
"Ultimately, it is the Greek audience that will pass editorial judgment on what is now a matter of national focus," EBU said, adding that it applauded "the tireless contribution of ex-ERT staff in maintaining a valuable service during this challenging time" and that it would offer its "support and expertise to help Greece's new public broadcaster fulfill its potential for independence and solid governance."
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