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By Ray Fleming

The Greek government's instant closedown of the national broadcaster ERT will have been observed by the BBC's opponents with interest. “If only we could do the same thing to the Beeb without any Parliamentary debates or anguished leading articles in Guardian” they will have been thinking. In many countries, including the United States, public service broadcasting is fighting against a combination of governmental objection to independent voices and the commercial sector's opportunism. Although ERT's three TV channels, several local radio stations and a world service were often described as “Greece's BBC” it operated on a more modest scale and under frequent new management teams as governments changed. Nonetheless, it had an important degree of freedom of speech which has been lost to the Greek public, rather as if the Generals were back in power.

The latest information yesterday was that a hard core of broadcasters was maintaining news bulletins online, but that may not last. There are protests from leading figures in Greece and a promise of street demonstrations. The European Broadcasting Union which represents all European public service broadcasters pointed out that national broadcasting is never more important than at a time of national difficulties. The shut-down of ERT will contribute 2'700 jobs to the government's drive for civil service economies, but once done without consultation it will be hard to recover what has been lost.