The events around Taksim square in Istanbul rather drove the Greek government’s sudden and inconceivable closure of the state media (ERT) last week off most front pages. Journalists are not everyone’s favourite group of people; and it may well be true (as the Greek PM said) that there was a lot of slacking and underemployment in the state radio and television studios.But that is no justification for the sudden closure – Europe’s first in the post-war period. Yanis Vroufakis, the Greek economist who wrote The Global Minotaur, is hardly an admirer of the state broadcaster which actually banned him for more than 2 years from appearing on its channels - but he chose to spend 3 nights with the journalists who are, with quite a bit of public support, resisting the closure. His reasoning is a powerful comment on the current state of our freedoms.....
As probably the only Greek commentator to have been blacklisted by ERT over the past two years (due to the previous government’s annoyance at my insistence that Greece was bankrupt and should default in 2010, instead of adding huge new loans to un-payable debts) I feel I have the moral authority to cry out against ERT’s passing. Despite ERT’s many ills, its sudden, authoritarian closure by our troika-led government is a crime against public media that all civilised people, the world over, should rise up against.
Why? Because however stale, inefficient, even corrupt our public media organisations may be, they are essential to a well functioning society. In our stratified societies the legal system, for instance, is arguably unfair toward the weaker members of society who cannot afford the top lawyers or who are inarticulate. Even in the most civilised society, courts offer us nothing more than a chance of justice. There are no guarantees of it. Similarly with our public education systems. Frequently, they serve the interests of the middle class better than those who truly need public education. Nevertheless, this is no reason to close down the courts or our public schools.
Similarly with public television and radio: they offer us no guarantee of current and affairs pluralism and cultural diversity. What they offer us is merely a chance of it. A chance for an electronic public space where values are irreducible to prices and voices can be heard that annoy our society’s high and mighty.