Spain’s foreign minister slams Greek TV closures

Spain's foreign minister slams Greek TV closures
"Closing a public television is never good news," said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo. Photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP
Spain and France spoke out on Wednesday against the cash-strapped Greek government's decision to shut down the country's ERT state broadcaster, a move which sparked a new political crisis in Athens.

"Closing a public television is never good news," Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said at a joint news conference in Madrid with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius when asked about the Greek government's surprise move.

"I have to reiterate that elevating austerity to an ideological dogma has such consequences," he added.

Greece's ERT television and radio stations were abruptly taken off the air Tuesday and its 2,700 staff suspended after the conservative-led government branded the broadcaster a "haven of public waste".

A snap general strike has been called in Greece for Thursday in the wake of the move.

"We need to imagine what it would mean in our country if, without any notice being given, the public television was closed. People are used to tuning into a channel and they find a black screen," said Fabius.

"To use a euphemism, I am not sure if this is the right way to get people to love political decisions," he added.

Greece's socialist and moderate leftist parties supporting the coalition government were to hold an emergency meeting to decide their response to the move by the conservative-led government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The Samaras administration quickly presented legislation creating a new broadcaster called New Hellenic Radio, Internet and Television (NERIT) to replace the 60-year-old ERT.

Greece is caught in a six-year recession which austerity critics say has been exacerbated by successive pay and pension cuts imposed at the behest of its EU-IMF creditors.

On May 31st, El Mundo newspaper reported that Spain's national broadcaster RTVE was looking are reducing staff wages across the board.

A preliminary report into plans for the organization said the workforce should be capped at 6,400 workers.

The broadcaster's budget for 2013 is €941 million, with wages making up 40 percent of that total at €378 million.

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