Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Closing down state broadcaster, what does it mean?

The Greece Prime Minster wants to close down the state broadcaster ERT but the decision was overturned by the highest Court.  It, of course, has nothing to do with Singapore.  However, if we look further into the issue, it has many meanings to us.

Lack of transparency, Purpose of state broadcaster and alternative media, Protection of Job and Independence of Court

In Singapore, it is out of imagination the PAP government will close down Mediacorp and its television and radio stations. So, why does the Greece government think otherwise?

The reasons given by the Prime Minister Antonis Samaras are very strange to us:
“ERT suffered from chronic mismanagement, lack of transparency and waste.”{BBC}
A Prime Minister is accusing his state-owned broadcaster “lack of transparency”.

While in Singapore, this will never happen as we all know the clear position of mainstream media. It will be very interesting to find out why the government owned broadcaster in Greece becomes “lack of transparency”.  Is it because of the multi-party politics and frequent changes of government leading to the broadcaster does not know who is the “real” master?

The importance of alternative media

If the state broadcaster is to be closed down, it means the existence of state television and radio stations has very little value to the government. Just ask yourself can the PAP live and function without the MSM? Of course, not.

The Greece PM must have found alternative media to communicate to the people. There are, of course, alternative private broadcasters in Greece which can help the government to do the transmission work.

However, the most important contribution is the Internet and social media. Government can communicate with the citizens through Facebook, twitter and other social media. The future development of social media will be an effective alternative to traditional media. 

Perhaps, in the case of Greece, this is the reason why even without a state broadcaster, there are other communication channels that can effectively communicate government policies, rules and regulations, changes in administration procedures etc. to the people.

Considering this development and the recent MDA new licensing requirements, you can easily guess why the PAP has to come out with the new security bonds and notice on removal of articles. The PAP is still very tradition and does not know how to face the challenges and development of social media in Singapore. 

Protection of Job

Another interesting about the Greece story (full BBC report below) is who will protect the job of the broadcaster workers. The government says no and is ready to fire the workers. The union has come forward to file the case in the Court. 

It is interesting to see the outcome of same case in Singapore. If the PAP wants to close down Mediacorp, will the union in Singapore protest and file the case in the Court?

In Singapore, the likely outcome will be some things like the following:

Union members file their cases against union 

So, union members may have privileges in club facilities and bookings, but whether their rights are well protected or not is another question.  

Independence of Court.

If the same case goes to the Court in Singapore, what will be the outcome? The Greece Court seems to give a win-win ruling.

[A Greek court has ordered that state broadcaster ERT, which was shut down by the government last week, can resume transmissions. 

However, the court also upheld a plan by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to replace ERT with a smaller broadcaster.] (BBC)

The union wins in short term and the government wins in the long term (by end of year). 

Is this win-win ruling showing the independence of the Court in Greece? Or all of them are playing politics.

Full BBC report as follows:

Greece court orders state broadcaster ERT back on air

A Greek court has ordered that state broadcaster ERT, which was shut down by the government last week, can resume transmissions.
However, the court also upheld a plan by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to replace ERT with a smaller broadcaster.
The ruling came as Mr Samaras and his coalition partners - furious that they had not been consulted about ERT's closure - held crisis talks.
The prime minister's decision triggered mass protests across the country.

The leading party in the governing coalition, the conservative New Democracy, said last Tuesday that ERT suffered from chronic mismanagement, lack of transparency and waste.
It shut the broadcaster down with the loss of nearly 2,700 jobs. Viewers saw TV screens go black as the signal was switched off.
Greece's top administrative court - the Council of State - upheld Mr Samaras's plan to replace ERT with a new broadcaster later this year but backed the position of the other coalition partners that the signal must be restored in the interim.
Some ERT journalists have continued live broadcasts unauthorised over the internet, and when the ruling came through, a strapline across the screen said: "In a few hours ERT will be broadcasting everywhere."

'Seven nights'

The case was brought by ERT's union in an attempt to overturn Mr Samaras's surprise move.
The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says each side will claim victory, but in the end the unity of the government has been badly weakened.
During talks, Mr Samaras had suggested a new, leaner, cheaper broadcaster would be established within weeks and he proposed hiring a small team to produce news programmes in the interim.
But this idea was rejected by his two coalition partners - Evangelos Venizelos of Pasok and Fotis Kouvelis of the Democratic Left.
"The court decision is essentially in line with what we've said: no one has the right to shut down national radio and television and turn screens black," said Mr Kouvelis after the emergency talks ended.

Opposition party Syriza staged a protest in Syntagma Square on Monday evening
Mr Venizelos said they would meet again on Wednesday to discuss a cabinet reshuffle.
An official from New Democracy said the ruling affirmed the government's position that ERT had been scrapped.

The row has threatened to topple the government and force Greece into snap elections, triggering political turmoil with implications for the whole eurozone.

ERT workers celebrated outside the broadcaster's headquarters after hearing the court ruling.

"I've been here seven nights and this is the first time I've seen people smile," said reporter Eleni Hrona.
However, our correspondent says there is also the recognition that later this year many will lose their jobs as a smaller broadcaster is formed.

Meanwhile, as coalition leaders went into talks, the main opposition party Syriza held a rally in Athens' Syntagma Square to demand early elections.

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