The ERT case: an attempt to build social consensus

The ERT case: an attempt to build social consensus
flickr © Ελεάννα Κούνουπα 2013

Should or should not ERT be shut down? All we do by posing this question in such a simplistic basis is to equate both sides, the ‘’yes’’ and the ‘’no’’ side as acceptable alternative. This means, that both sides acquire the same legitimacy, claim to be heard equally-and therefore to compete on an equal footing about which one will gain the public opinion.



However, regarding the case of the public radio-television-internet media, posing this question-dilemma in such a divisive way is emphatically misleading. And that is because the two sides of the debate are not equally valued and are not entitled to be heard equally. According to the European tradition, public information and entertainment is a component of democracy. And that’s because, according to proofs based on studies, it contributes to the maintenance of the democratic public sphere. How? First of all, public media devote more attention to public affairs and international news, thereby enhancing the greater knowledge in these sectors, in relation to private media. Public television, also, emphasizes the news, encourages for higher levels of consumption of news and that way it diminishes to some extent the knowledge gap between the socially privileged citizens and those at an inferior financial state.


However, and this is where the problem with the ERT is being located, this superiority of public information versus the private one is moderated or even eliminated by factors such as the legally guaranteed independence of the public media, the rate of public funding, and the share of audience. ERT, at least concerning its news section, is not known for its independence by the government. The audience share is consistently low. As for the funding, it’s not about the lack of resources, but rather about the mismanagement and occasionally waste of them. Once, however, this is the case, why not to shut the ERT down even for a while, until it’s shaped and able to broadcast again with such quality that rivals BBC? People who are in favor of restarting the ERT are saying: since no one is watching ERT, what matters if it’s closed?

The comparison made by Mr. Kedikoglou about ERT being a car that needs overhauling and must be put in the garage is unfortunate


Closing and opening the public media at will of the government, without prior planned parliamentary debate and vote/approval, may be acceptable in autocratic regimes, but it doesn’t comply with the spirit of democracy. And if restarting the ERT aims to its democratization, this can only be achieved through democratic processes. Such rationale (sudden pause was chosen in order to avoid strikes, obstruction in the House etc) is profoundly anti-democratic. And politically non-moral, because it tries to shift the burden of the responsibility for the depreciation of ERT, the waste of funding, and ultimately the failure to fulfill its democratic role to the employees and not to the employers (i.e. the government, the current one and the previous).There are promises given by the government that the new ERT will operate by the end of August with its staff reduced to half. But what the government doesn’t explain is how this reduction is associated with the substantial strengthening of the role of ERT (i.e. how from being ERT it will become… BBC ) and how it prevents the mismanagement/waste of its resources. Mostly, however, it doesn’t explain the necessity for ERT to STOP being broadcasting for two months. The comparison made by Mr. Kedikoglou about ERT being a car that needs overhauling and must be put in the garage is unfortunate. It only denominates the conception of the public service broadcasting as a bankrupt company ( hence the closure/consolidation), while it’s a public welfare institution whose constant uninterrupted operation is state’s responsibility.


There is no doubt that the institution of public media has been under crisis for the last two decades, not only in Greece but in the majority of the European countries as well. This crisis principally concerns their role in a communicative, privatized, digitalized, and on line environment, - completely different (and constantly changing) from that one in which they first appeared and continued to operate for more than half a century. There is no study, however, that has concluded that public media are now redundant or that the need to renew how they work justifies their termination even temporarily. As it was briefly put by a user of Twitter : ‘’I don’t want ERT to be shut down, not because I’m watching it but because I know that there is something else to watch except MEGA channel.‘’ Whether it will be the ‘’yes’’ or the ‘’no’’ side that will predominate in the case of ERT, it will only tell whether the political system and the citizens continue to estimate the role of public media based on democratic values or if  we have now entered a ‘’post- democratic‘’ era for good.

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