Greece will suspend broadcasts from its radio and TV station, ERT, by midnight, Athens time, on Wednesday in a continuing effort to curb government spending.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said in a statement aired on ERT that networked stations will shut down and furlough more than 2,500 employees until the company reopens, which will be "as soon as possible." Kedikoglou indicated that Greece aims to relaunch the station as a much leaner organization.
Kedikoglou said ERT costs Greece 300 million euros ($398.24 million) each year and had become what he labeled an example of incredible waste.
"It costs three to seven times as much as other TV stations and four to six times the personnel for a very small viewership, about half that of an average private station," said Kedikoglou. "At a time when the Greek people are enduring sacrifices, there is no room for delay, hesitation or tolerance for sacred cows."
Kedikoglou said employees will receive some compensation and also opportunities to reapply for their jobs or different ones in the reorganized company.
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Greece's POESY media union voiced opposition to the suspension and claimed that the government was sacrificing ERT in order to appease creditors.
"Bailout creditors are demanding civil service layoffs," the union said in a statement, "and the government -- in order to meet its obligations toward foreign monitors -- is prepared to sacrifice the public broadcasting corporation."
Greece has operated ERT for more than 70 years and it is the latest institution to face austerity measures imposed on the country as a condition of its bailout by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, known collectively as the troika. Troika inspectors arrived in Athens on Monday to evaluate how close Greece is to meeting it bailout obligations. Greek officials announced Monday that its natural gas firm DEPA had failed to secure a buyer, which left the country unable to meet a key bailout target.