Staff of Greek public TV defy gov't closure order

Athens, Jun 12 (EFE).- Greece became on Wednesday the only European Union member-state with no public broadcaster even as the staff of the officially defunct ERT continued to occupy the network's headquarters and disseminate content via the Internet.

Police have already forcibly evicted employees from the Thessaloniki studios of regional channel ERT3 and government spokesman Simos Kedikoglu refused to rule out a similar operation in Athens to protect "state property."

Greece's two largest labor federations, ADEDY and GSEE, called a general strike for Thursday to show solidarity with the ERT workers.

The episode coincides with a visit to Athens by representatives of the Troika - the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - to evaluate the progress of the "reforms" imposed on Greece as a condition for receiving money that went largely to pay foreign banks which hold Greek debt.

The main element in Greece's coalition government, the conservative New Democracy party, insisted Wednesday that it was not closing ERT, but rather "re-initiating" Greek public broadcasting.

Neritan, as the new entity will be known, is to be a public enterprise with financial and administrative autonomy, Kedikoglu said.

He said Neritan will be free of political interference, but the draft legislation mandates that the person holding Kedikoglu's position will appoint the oversight council that is to name the new broadcaster's board of directors, with no input from parliament.

New Democracy's coalition partners, the center-left Pasok and Dimar parties, have publicly repudiated the move to shut down ERT.

Parliament can refuse to ratify Prime Minister Andonis Samaras' decree closing ERT.

Before now, ERT broadcasts have been interrupted on only one occasion in its 77-year history: when German occupation forces destroyed the company's radio antennas as they withdrew from Athens in October 1944.