Τετάρτη, 12 Ιουνίου 2013

Ελληνικός Ραδιοτηλεοπτικός Τάφος*

For months now I have suffered from a serious case of writer’s block for various reasons. And while I know exactly what I want to write about – mainly continue the list – I cannot put myself to doing it. The words simply do not flow as they used to and that frustrates me, like I cannot begin to describe how much. Also, it has been a very long time since I last expressed any public view whatsoever regarding the state Greece is in and most particularly culture and education – the two segments of civilization that are of importance to me. And while my writing is still stifled and the words refuse to reveal themselves to me obstinately, today I cannot remain silent; for a crime has been committed and despite the fact that my voice is hardly ever heard (or even agreed with for that matter), my sense of justice has taken over the best of me and it forces my hand. What will come of it, I do not know. [I might lose my job, but that is of no importance, considering that my current position will be over in less than two months time, so it is not such a huge deal at the moment.]
I spoke of a crime and obviously I must name it (for my non-Greek readers, that is, because the Greek readers already know from the title what I will be writing about). Yesterday afternoon – May 11th, 2013 – the Greek government, applying a unique measure that has absolutely nothing to do with Democracy and in order to fulfill its obligations towards our European lenders, announced that the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Service of Greece (EPT), a stately funded institution (we, the people also pay for it a rather small fee for its service), was to be shut down. Just like that and – what is even more shocking – on the very same day the announcement was made. Which meant, that by the end of the day the radio stations and television channels, as well as any other institution associated with EPT, would cease its operations, whatever they may have been!
For my non-Greek readers, I will try to explain in as quick a manner as possible what EPT was (past tense). EPT was the National Broadcasting Service that from the radio, eventually expanded over to the television, internet and social media functions of Information, News, Culture and Education. It consisted of a number of radio stations all over Greece, each dedicated to a different kind of either news or culture; three state wide broadcast television channels (ET1, NET and ET3) with different objectives and goals in their programming; a magazine; a webpage; the obvious social network connections; an orchestra; a choir; technicians to keep everything in working order and probably a gazillion of other things as well, which I am unaware of. In total, those parts amounted to 2.656 individuals – from reporters to musicians to technicians to the cleaning staff – who as of today are essentially, unemployed.
I would love to go on about the way they ended up on the streets – namely through the personal choice of our Prime Minister, who, in order to please our European lenders and achieve the set goal of firing some 2.000 people from the public sector by the end of June had to do something, otherwise we wouldn’t get the loan… But I will not, because I refuse to meddle with politics, even by criticizing such an abomination of a choice. And I refuse to do so, because, despite my little life experience I know that much: in today’s world, people are only viewed as numbers and those numbers need to procure money for the rich; when they stop doing so they need to be laid off. At least, that is the very blunt and least detailed explanation. But, please, couldn’t they have come up with a better idea?
I am not going to say that everybody in Greece in general and in EPT in particular is a saint. It would be the biggest lie in the world! I live here, I have the distinct ………………… [deliberately left like that, in case you were wondering] of working in the public sector, I have seen things that will make your hair jump and I know that there are a lot of worthless people in important positions that simply cannot be moved, because they know somebody in an even higher place. But shutting down the National Broadcasting Service is a crime. No matter what. And it is not only a crime because 2.656 people and their families are laid off, no. I am convinced that not everybody in there was worth it – but that amount of people must have been small, hell, even if only half of those 2.656 people were worth it, they at least should have been allowed to stay. The way I hear, currently Greece is the only nation on the planet that does not have a National Broadcasting Service. Fabulous! Just great! We are even worse than North Korea! The crime of shutting down a news service goes way further.
Firstly, it is a distinct violation of the right to free speech which every individual has from day one. You shut down the National Broadcasting Service and all you have left are the private channels, each serving a different master and with different obligations to different political and financial parties. Let’s make one thing clear: I am not saying that EPT was unbiased or that at no time in the past, news were influenced by the governing body. But, believe me, after seeing the crap the other news channels feed us every single day, the little amount of government propaganda EPT did was harmless. At least there you knew who they served and why.
Secondly, EPT has always held up some standards regarding its programming – and here I am going to start reminiscing incessantly. When I was a kid (not so long ago, mind you) I literally grew up watching the children’s program of the 90’s which consisted of “Little House in the Prairie” (loved it and it made me want to read the books, which I did when I became a teen), “Carousel” (a Brazilian children soap opera that took place in a school that had the greatest teacher of them all, Ms. Jimena, who was not only beautiful, but extremely kind – I know that every child my age back then wished to have her as their teacher), “The Chronicles of Narnia” (the four installations made by the BBC of four of the seven books – the doll Aslan is a joke by today’s standards, but for someone who adored the books that series was incredible; I have the DVD’s and occasionally still watch them), “The Teacher” (an exceptional French series, that I would kill to see again, because it is probably the best series ever made, period!), an installation of the “Adventure” series by Enid Blyton (I think it was the “Adventure” series, but I am not very sure any more) which was fun and enjoyable and did actually make the books come to life (huge fan of Blyton’s books, by the way – nowadays children do not even know who she was), and not to mention the Greek productions for children and adults made back then that unfortunately will not resonate with my non-Greek readers and therefore I refrain from mentioning them. I learned great lessons back then through all those programs and the best thing about them was I actually watched them together with my parents, because even they found them interesting and qualitative.
Then, of course, there were the documentaries: EPT had always a huge arsenal of extremely interesting documentaries to present, from “Lonely Planet” to fictionalized versions of the life of Dostoyevsky and what have you. Also, they produced themselves extremely interesting documentaries about all kinds of things, many of which have received numerous international awards (the documentary series “Exantas” is one example). By the way, one of the last documentaries I saw some months ago was a report on “El Sistema”, brilliantly done and executed by our Greek reporters.
And then, there was the music. I watched my first opera on the established Sunday matinee program of ET3, which was then moved to the afternoon, to a more appropriate time slot. They broadcasted concerts of classical music from all over the world, not only through the television, but also through their radio channels, most importantly – for classical music – the 3rd. That radio channel was on non-stop in our house every single day; in fact, it was the only radio station we ever listened to with undying devotion!
Also, the sports. I am a huge sports fan – I do not enjoy doing them myself, but I love watching them. Football, basketball, tennis, water sports, athletics and figure skating… I still remember the final of the 2004 Euro Championships where Greece upset Portugal and won the Cup – it was on NET. Every single basketball event – from European Championships to the World Championships – where Greece always in the past years has a team to speak of was shown there. Every May it was Rolland Garros time! Water sports and athletics; the Olympic Games obviously! And figure skating… I will never forget the numerous times I cried watching exceptional artists dance on the ice in competitions, bringing a moment of beauty in our tormented everyday lives.  
Finally the nations’ archives. It is incredible once you realize that right now, Greece’s modern day history of the past century is in danger. EPT has one of the most concise and complete audiovisual archives in the country. Not only that, but during the past years, an effort was made to digitize everything and spread it – for free – to the public via the Internet. I have seen old shows there, shows from before I was born. I learned about people I was interested in through old documentaries. I explored those archives whenever I had the chance and the time and they were marvelous! If anyone wants to destroy our nation that is the way to do it: destroy the archives. Right now, they – whoever “they” are – have total access and control over them. That archive contains Greece’s cultural heritage of the 20th century and we are about to lose it. The cultural implications of such a loss are magnanimous, to say the least and impossible to calculate at this moment. Should it happen, it will be a crime against humanity and those responsible for it, should face trial.
I am so overwhelmed by all these happenings, that I am uncertain whether I have said enough. Probably not. And also, probably, my entry is not as powerful as I would like it to be, nor does it make its’ point. But, what I want to stress out is this: despite the fact that often I was irritated by a lot of things that had to do with EPT – from the wrong announcement of a music piece on the radio, to the complete overhaul (without any warning) of their program when I really needed it to be a different way, to the censored kiss from “Deep Space 9” in the year 2008 (I think) – I appreciated its existence in my life. And I never could have imagined a life without it. Well, I’m living that life right now – and so are 10 million others just like me…
How is this going to play out? Mind you, the government has already announced a new form of EPT coming to existence, sometime in the future. But I already dislike the name of it, so I probably won’t care much about it. And even if they restore the old EPT to the way it was yesterday, with all its problems and downsides, it wouldn’t be the same. Not only that, but they would make themselves even greater fools than they already are. Well, I never voted for anyone in the current parliament, nor am I ever going to, but it is rather disturbing to see yourself represented by such idiots to the world. No wonder everybody thinks Greeks are stupid and lame. Still, I remain an optimist and pray that the world in general will come to its senses and our lives will get better. Maybe. One day.

*Greek Radio-television Tomb