Riot police battled protesters and opposition lawmakers at the closed public broadcasting station ERT in Athens late on Nov. 9 as Parliament was debating a motion to censure the Conservative-led coalition government for sending in the police earlier in the week to oust former workers occupying the building.
Police guarding the shut ERT headquarters in a northern Athens suburb pushed back lawmakers from the left-wing opposition SYRIZA party who brought the censure motion, and the smaller Independent Greeks group as they tried to enter the building. Parliament is expected to vote on the motion late on Nov. 10.
ERT’s closure in June sparked an international outcry and nearly brought down the coalition government in debt-laden Greece, which has been implementing painful public-sector restructuring in return for international bailout loans. The government said the station was ridden with useless patronage hires – which it put there over the years.
The government closed the broadcaster as part of public service restructuring, saying that the former broadcaster was hopelessly bloated and ineffective, with 2,600 employees and annual costs of 300 million euros ($400 million).
Critics said, however, that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, was still stuffing the station with political hires until pressure from the lenders led him to take the axe to the entire organization.
Authorities intend to use the headquarters to house a new public broadcaster, named NERIT, due to start transmitting in 2014 after Greece takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency in January. An interim station that has brought ridicule because it was transmitting 60-year-old black-and-white movies and ancient documentaries before adding some new programming is now running but largely ignored by Greeks.