Greek PM accuses coalition of hypocrisy on state broadcaster

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday accused his coalition partners of "hypocrisy" for denouncing the closure of state broadcaster ERT after they backed public service job cuts.

Samaras heads a fragile coalition in a careful balancing act to enact unpopular austerity reforms in return for bailout loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

"The elimination of 2,000 public sector jobs between now and June was signed up to by all the heads of the three parties of the governing coalition," Samaras said.

"From where should we cut these jobs apart from the undeserving ERT..., one of the bastions of obscurity and privileges?" Samaras asked, accusing his coalition partners of "hypocrisy" during a conference of his New Democracy party.

Samaras's conservatives have for the last year formed a coalition government with the small leftist democratic party Dimar and Pasok's socialists, which both opposed ERT's shutdown.

The government says it will compensate ERT's almost 2,700 employees and has pledged to set up a new public broadcaster with less than half the staff before the end of summer.

Pasok and Dimar have called on Samaras to reopen ERT while admitting the need for restructuring the broadcaster.

A crucial meeting on the subject is planned for Monday evening between Samaras and the heads of Pasok and Dimar, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, amid continuing protests at ERT headquarters and strikes by Greek journalists.

ERT has a long history of nepotistic hiring practices and government-biased news coverage, but it also provides an invaluable link to the Greek diaspora, border areas and isolated islands.