ON June 11, the Greek coalition government took the unprecedented decision to close the national TV station in Athens and sack the workforce of over 2,000 workers.
News Line interviewed Panayiotis Kalfayannis, President of POSPERT (Federation of Media Trade Unions) and leader of the TV workers who explained the crisis situation.
‘The government carried out the demands of the Troika for 2,000 sackings by the end of May.
‘Our refusal to accept this situation has led them to completely close down the national state TV network and plunge the state TV screens into darkness.
‘This has resulted in a major resistance struggle by the workers. We serve the national interest sector of Greece. We provide a service that is stated in our constitution, and reflects the democratic rights for all Greeks, plus we also provide a frequency that is used by the army.
‘We have decided to stand firm and carry forward this fight, principally by mobilising our members and as part of the struggle to overthrow the government’s policies of mass unemployment and poverty.
‘We have made it clear right from the start that it is the right of every Greek citizen to have the use of the public TV network and that this is provided for by the Constitution.
‘An ex-minister Pavlopoulos, also a distinguished lawyer, stated that the TV network must not be closed as this is against the Constitution.
‘Our dynamic struggle is now in its 12th day (23rd June) and our struggle has solid support, not just from the people who come here in their thousands every day but also from the European Broadcasting Union which represents the managements of all the European states’ TV stations.
‘The government is breaking the law. The Council of State (Greek High Court) has twice taken the decision that the state TV network must remain open.
‘Samaras (Greek Prime Minister) has acted like a pirate. He is using the big private companies who own the telecommunications networks, to control our transmitters and cut them down to stop us transmitting.
‘Some private TV stations like the Communist Party’s station transmitted for us for a period but the government illegally stopped them.
‘But in spite of this, the EBU and the Greek TV National Council recognise us and not the government.
‘We, the workers, have decided that this is a new Polytechnic struggle against a democratic junta. The huge historic Polytechnic struggle of 1967 against the colonels actually funded a propaganda TV channel, and when Hitler’s Germany occupied Greece, they didn’t shut down the TV stations.
‘What this government is doing today is much worse – it is an unprecedented situation.
‘It has also taken the decision to break European Union directives. The European Amsterdam Treaty states that “Every country must have a state TV and radio network working.”
‘Here in Greece we normally have three TV channels, another channel which is used all over the world, and another that serves the Vouli (Greek parliament); we have an obligation to provide these five channels.
‘We must also provide material to transmit programmes for other countries such as Cyprus, the BBC, German TV and others, and we also provide an HD channel.
‘We have seven national radio stations, three local radio stations in Salonica, and 19 other radio stations around the country.
‘We provide a world radio station for Greece, a multi-media station and we also have one of the biggest digital archives.
‘As well, we have here in Greece 1,100 mountain tops where there are 6,000 transmitters we are obliged to maintain which is a huge operation, as a country such as Holland only has two.
‘Our workforce consists of 2,663 people: 660 journalists throughout Greece, 980 technicians, radio producers and office staff and about 70 administrative staff. We also have 250 short-term staff.
About two weeks ago the government offered to provide resources for 400 new short-contract jobs.
‘We produce all the news programmes which the government insists we must provide free to all the private channels. These private TV channels have sacked their own people and we are again ordered by the government to provide them with programmes ready for use, as well as an optical line.
‘We are also ordered that our own news programme is left to the end of the night, after the private TV programmes, so that it looks like our news just comes in late and makes us look foolish.
‘The argument that the government makes is that there is no money for the state network, which is lies. They want a private consortium to run the network.
‘We make a profit and we take no money from the state budget.
‘We are forced to give 75 million euros a year to the private media companies under the pretext that they provide us with solar energy, which is not true.
‘We give five million euros a year to the Greek state cinema to make films. We are giving over 40 million euros a year to the Greek state.
‘Greek people pay four euros a month for a TV license. Only two euros end up with the state TV, the rest the government takes.
‘Private TV companies do not pay tax, which was decided by the Vouli. We pay 140 million euros in tax on wages, pensions etc. and we are fully paid up.
‘Private TV do not pay for the use of our frequency channels and ignore the EU ruling that they must do this and they all owe money to the banks and are bankrupt.
‘In fact, the state actually channels money to the private TV companies for advertisements such as for electricity, water and advertising other state companies.
‘We are determined to carry on with our struggle as we have an obligation to the Greek people who are our real employers.
‘Our action so far has produced a crisis in the government and one sector of it has quit the coalition.
‘I would like to put on record that we have not lost one second of transmission since the 11 June and we are defiant of the Troika orders of 2,000 sackings.
‘Over the last seven years we have publicly exposed the government’s nepotism on state TV. We have spoken out against the government. Our journalists have been sacked for telling the truth. Seven times we have been before the state prosecutor for speaking out.
‘The government want to get rid of us. We have faced censorship by the government and the editor of our news programme, and others, have been sacked.
‘We will not be silenced.
‘Both the Greek TUC and ADEDY (The Federation of Public Works) are calling for a general strike in our support. There has been already a 24-hour general strike and there are now discussions started for an indefinite general strike.
‘Action that you see here is taking place in Salonika and all over Greece. There are two million unemployed and it is our duty to take this fight against the government to the next level and defeat these government attacks.
‘It is a one way street – no turning back!’
‘The people have to overthrow this government’
Supporting the TV workers, News Line spoke to Anonis Stamatopoulos, President of SELMA (Athens Metro workers union) who explained:
‘We have been in a fight against the government over the last three years.
‘We were the first in the public sector to face sackings with 270 axed.
‘We have resisted from day one – it is our duty.
‘We have fought without the support of the Greek TUC and the Athens Trades Council but we stood firm.
‘The attacks started when the government signed the first and then the second Accords with the Troika. We have had 160 days of strikes over the last two years and when we were all threatened with the sack we occupied the Vouli in protest.
‘Our union has always shown its solidarity with every other sector in struggle from the steelworkers, the printers, seafarers, municipal workers and now the TV workers.
‘I myself have been persecuted by the state. I have been taken to court, abused and seriously hurt by thugs and hospitalised for 10 days but I remain firm.
‘I believe this is a junta fascist government and now even these so-called lefts of PASOK and the Democratic Left have turned me into a soldier – they have conscripted me as my union is not allowed now to legally strike.
‘I have always been on the side of the working class. Our struggle is a one-way street and there’s no going back. The people have to overthrow this government – no more Europe! We have to go forward through popular revolution.’