Greek government back in talks to end TV crisis

Derek Gatopoulos and Nicholas Paphitis, Associated Press

A protester stands in front of the Greek state television ERT headquarters in Athens, on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. State TV channels in Greece remained off-air Tuesday as the political storm over the future of public broadcaster ERT rages on despite a court ruling that the prime minister's decision to pull the plug was wrong. The banner on the top reads in Greek "ERT is, and will remain open"(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's governing coalition parties met for a second time in three days to try and end a political crisis triggered by the closure of state broadcaster ERT.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was in talks Wednesday with coalition partners — the Socialist Pasok and Democratic Left parties — who have opposed his decision to switch off ERT's signal and fire all its 2,700 employees.

ERT was axed as international pressure is growing on the bailed-out country to fire public servants and speed up long-term cost cutting reforms aimed at making the country's budget and national debt sustainable.

The dispute has raised the threat of a snap general election in crisis-hit Greece, just one year after the last general election.

Debt monitors from the "troika" of the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank suspended their inspection in Athens "to allow completion of technical work" and will resume at the end of the month, a joint statement said Wednesday.

Most analysts have argued that politicians are unlikely to gamble on the country's vital bailout program given that opinion polls suggest no party would emerge the outright winner.

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange were unchanged Wednesday, as markets in Europe drifted.

Before the meeting Wednesday, Pasok spokeswoman Fofi Gennimata demanded the government switch ERT's signal back on, in compliance with a high court decision this week.

But conservatives insist the public broadcaster will remain off the air until a more efficient state TV and radio network is set up.

"It's not acceptable for an elected government to fail to comply with a high court order," Gennimata told private Vima FM radio.

She denied reports that senior members of her party were seeking Samaras' replacement as prime minister.

Fired ERT employees have continued unauthorized broadcasts since the June 11 closure, streamed mostly online and on disused analog frequencies, and have even expanded regional TV and radio programming this week.

Media unions Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Greece's finance and media ministers, accusing them of violating the high court ruling.

Greece's two largest labor unions staged a protest rally outside ERT headquarters, a building 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of central Athens that remains occupied by laid off broadcast workers for a ninth day.

"There can be no compromise with the barbarism of these layoffs or the screens going blank," leftist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras said. "Whatever is decided tonight, ERT will stay open."


AP writer Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to this report.