The Lost Signal of Democracy

April 9, 2014

By Tom Adams

Lost Signal of Democracy

Yorgos Avgeropoulos at the Frontline Club.

On Monday 7 April, the Frontline Club welcomed Yorgos Avgeropoulos for the screening of his latest documentary, The Lost Signal of Democracy. The film followed the closure of ERT, Greece’s public broadcasting service, in June 2013, and tracked the progress of its staff and critics right up until the end of March 2014. The film, for Avgeropoulos, showed that:

“Democracy is the first victim of crisis, and information the second.”

The film, which has been broadcasted in 18 countries, was greeted with rapturous applause and there was clearly a widespread desire to question director Avgeropoulos more closely on some of the themes within the 65-minute documentary. The first question put to Avgeropoulos was how the closure of ERT came to be the subject of his documentary. Upon explaining that he was indeed shooting a wider documentary about the Greek financial crisis, called Agorá, he said:

“It was about three’o clock in the afternoon when we started hearing some rumours actually, ‘Something is going to happen to ERT. Very serious.’ And it was amazing, unbelievable. Because for us ERT is like the police, the fire department. It was always there.”

The discussion then turned to whether there is a threat to public broadcasters, not only in Greece, but across Europe in places like Spain and the Netherlands. Avgeropoulos replied:

“What is happening in Greece is not staying in Greece so we are all thinking about the Greek economic crisis but actually Greece is the laboratory of experiments, politics actually. . . . It’s politics, pure politics. Nowadays we have a huge confrontation between the private and the public. We can see in many countries in Europe . . . we can see in the health sector, we can see in the education sector . . . this is what it’s all about.”

Avgeropoulos was also asked to bring us up to date on the operations of ERT now and how they are able to continue broadcasting.

“This is a very good experiment that is going on in northern Greece. They self-manage ERT, the branch of northern Greece, and they are broadcasting analogue, not digital, and also through internet.”

When pressed on whether those who continue to broadcast are allowed to do so, Avgeropoulos replied:

“No, but they have left their families, they have left everything. They are – 24 hours a day – in the building and they are operating, they are broadcasting, and they keep this thing alive. . . . There are 40. They are producing three newscasts and they have also some shows and, of course, they are lacking programmes.”

An audience member asked if it were possible to make some form of comparison between ERT and the BBC and how the two would compare.

“Regarding reporting and the quality of the news for example, [ERT] was not good. I mean there were government, especially in the news, there was government intervention . . . but on the other hand of ERT you had, let’s say, some small islands of expression, less in the television, bigger space in the radio . . . but no, it was not the public television that we want to have, no, far away from this.”

 

“Now I mean, during the four months of the self management . . . it’s a completely different thing. You can hear every voice on the planet, I mean you can see every colour, every opinion, it’s amazing. . . . This is good, it makes you happy, I cannot say. It’s a feeling, it’s freedom.”

Regarding the future of freedom of expression in Greece and whether the situation was likely to improve in the future, Avgeropoulos said:

“I don’t know really. . . . I’m afraid that we are going from bad to worse. This is what I have to say: . . . we cannot recover from this, this crisis. This thing is going to be there.”

More information about The Lost Signal of Democracy can be found here, and details of Avgeropoulos’ upcoming film, Agorá, can be found here.



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