Black screen: an image worth a thousand words, which perfectly illustrates the budget tragedy being played out in Greece. On 12 June, at around 23:00 local time, the Greek public TV broadcaster ERT went off the air. The surprise announcement landed like a bomb in Greece and in Europe, especially considering that it was the police that had interrupted broadcasting. "Such a thing has never happened, even during the dictatorship. The government's reaction is a panic reaction," said Dimitris Papadimitriou, an employee at ERT, and a famous composer in Greece.

"When the police shuts down a broadcaster and prevents journalists from doing their work, it is called censorship, it is called a major step back for democracy," said Jean-Paul Philippot, head of the Union europeenne de radio-television (UER), which represents European public television channels.

After a demonstration the following day, the TV channels started organising their own resistance by broadcasting over the internet.

In such a context the European Commission's reaction was highly anticipated - since the Commission, together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), forms the Troika that is forcing Athens to raise at least 1.8 billion by the end of September through privatisations to comply with the terms of its bailout.

This savings effort namely involves major public service cuts, especially since Athens has not managed to find a buyer for its gas company DEPA, whose privatisation would have brought in 1 billion.

"The decision was taken fully autonomously, the Commission did not ask for this shut-down and learned of it at the same time as everyone else," said a spokesperson for the EU executive. Many journalists in Brussels were expecting the Commission to condemn the move in the name of democracy, pluralism and media independence, but the Commission first underlined budget saving imperatives: "The decision must be viewed in the context of the considerable and necessary efforts the authorities have been making to modernise the Greek economy". The Commission nevertheless stressed that the audiovisual public service holds an "essential place in European democracy".

The Commission went on to congratulate the government of Antonis Samaras for wanting to create a new public audiovisual company, Nerit S.A. The Commission also said its heart went out to the 2,700...

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