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ERT – In memoriam

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ERT, the Greek national broadcaster was shut down by the Greek government on June 11th, 2013 without any negotiations and with the presence and help of riot police. This article is not about the political agenda of this decision or the brutality of its implementation, it is not about the level of democracy (as it comes in levels nowadays) or that of corruption. Enough is being written about all that. This is about ERT and what it is for me.

ERT was not just another broadcaster; it was and is a symbol. It formed identities, it formed me. Like most Greeks that were children at the 1980s, I grew up with carefully selected children’s programmes that ERT provided, programmes such as FROUTOPIA, a crime story with humour and symbolism tailored for children, written by famous children’s author Eugene Trivizas as a comic and adapted for the TV in the form of beautifully crafted puppets that triggered the imagination. And this is just one example.

It is however as adolescents that we make our real choices that will lead to what adults we become. The 1990s in Greece brought many private TV channels, together with all the glamour and the kitsch these could offer. I remember zapping through rubbish to land on the great names of world cinema, late nights on ET3, one of the 3 TV channels of ERT. That was the time before internet entered our homes. Film descriptions would be found in the weekly TV programme magazine, most of the times badly written blurbs. Yet for ET3 films, I didn’t need a description: there was always a magical surprise there for me, a window into different countries, different worlds. I bumped into films like “La cité des enfants perdus” by chance. Another sleepless night in my adolescent gloom I found on ET3 “Mina Tannenbaum” and this film changed me. And then I started recording the films on videocassettes and became a collector of treasures fished out of the lake in the oasis that ERT offered: Rohmer, Bergman, Dreyer, Pasolini, Fassbinder and so many more. And often there would be a very informative introduction to the film, an entirely non-pretentious cultural analysis that showed me how I wanted my conversations to be. I was wet clay and ERT moulded me into what I am.

But it was not only the film choices that distinguished ERT from any other broadcaster. ET3 would show an opera every week, picked from the best interpretations of the world. I was a child and adolescent that responded to the stimuli around me. ERT offered the best stimuli I could wish for. I am thankful to ERT for giving me a choice, for offering the opportunity of a different perspective. I am thankful I grew up in a cultural environment that my parents allowed me to choose and never forced upon me. When I was 4 years old, walking down the street with my mom, I heard music coming out of the conservatory of our neighbourhood and stretched on my toes to see what is behind that window. My mother asked me if I wanted to see what is in that house and this is how I started learning the piano. ERT showed me all these beautiful stories put into music and with the salary of my first job I took classical singing lessons. This is what ERT did to people.

And not to forget the ‘Third Programme’, one of ERT’s many radio stations: it was the only radio station in Greece broadcasting classical music and cultural programmes that educated through entertainment, an oasis of the radiosphere. I have lived in 3 more countries other than Greece and their classical music radio stations have always been keeping me company. However none of them has ever touched my soul as the ‘Third Programme’ did and not because of linguistic burdens. There was a warmth in this radio station, the short intros before each piece were not just informative, at times they would become a beautiful metaphor, a personal interpretation that would lift you one step or one cloud higher. ‘The second part of a sonata often resembles middle age, composed, without extremes, yet with an inner tension, as if reflecting on one’s life so far’ said my friend Alina, radio journalist at the ‘Third Programme’ and co-soprano at the National Conservatory Choir, one evening in the early 2000s or this is how I remember it. And this changed the way I listen to second parts of sonatas ever since and also the way I think about middle age.

This is who I am. And ERT is and will always be part of me.

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