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June 11, 2013

The enemies of public broadcasting

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Written by: DW

By David Wisner

As luck would have it, I happened to log on to Facebook today just around the time that two transplanted Athenian acquaintances commented on news reports announcing the imminent closure and restructuring of the Greek public broadcasting service ERT.

The one, a retired diplomat who hobnobs with foreign investors and rails day in and day out about what he calls the “Big Fat Publik Sektor,” was delighted that the “leftist media conglomerate” would finally be trimmed down to size and no longer allowed to waste the tax payers money.

The other, a wiley journalist with a European socialist pedigree, whose reporting regularly performs a public service in the stark absence of coverage by his Greek colleagues, lamented the efforts of the government of Antonis Samaras to “pulverise” [sic] Greek public broadcasting and cause Greece to plummet “even further in the press freedom index.”

My two friends often commiserate in common about the multiple failures of the Greek media since the onset of the crisis. On this issue, however, they seem to fall on two sides of a classic divide regarding the role and merit of public broadcasting in general.

Take PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service in the US. Constantly falling afoul of conservative critics of supposed liberal bias in the telling of the news (and in the broadcasting of high culture programming like ballet and opera), it has also been seen as caving in to conservative interests in the scheduling of certain news segments. PBS is largely viewer funded, and yet public funding of broadcasting has been an issue in the past also.

It seems that the public utility of the PBS is conveniently overlooked, or maligned deliberately as hopelessly ideological. Back here in Greece I have no doubt which slant will prevail in the public opinion. Whether the ERT will survive is another question.






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