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Greek deputies approve bill for new state broadcaster

ERT journalists and technicians broadcast a news report at the ERT headquarters in Athens, on July 10, 2013. Greek lawmakers have narrowly approved a bill outlining a new public TV and radio network, more than a month after the government's shutdown of state broadcaster ERT.

Greek lawmakers on Friday narrowly approved a bill outlining a new public TV and radio network, more than a month after the government's shutdown of state broadcaster ERT.

The conservative-led, two-party coalition government managed to pass the bill on the New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television (Nerit S.A.) with 155 votes in a 300-seat parliament.

A heated parliamentary debate preceded the vote, with the leader of main opposition party Syriza insisting that ERT's closure was unconstitutional and undemocratic.

According to the bill, Nerit S.A. will be a corporation with administrative and financial independence, that belongs to the state and is supervised by the state.

Its independence from all forms of governmental or other intervention will be secured by a supervisory board, whose members will be appointed by the public television and radio minister.

The minister, along with the ministers of finance and culture, will represent the state at Nerit's general assemblies.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras abruptly pulled the plug on state broadcaster ERT on June 11, making some 2,600 people redundant overnight and causing national and international uproar.

The shutdown caused a major political crisis and led to the departure of the coalition government's ally, the Democratic Left.

Samaras was forced to carry out a cabinet reshuffle.

The prime minister has repeatedly refused to reinstate ERT in its previous form, arguing that it ate up 300 million euros ($394 million) annually and operated without transparency.

Refusing to accept their dismissal, ERT staff have kept up rogue broadcasts over the Internet, operating from ERT's headquarters in a northern Athens suburb, with assistance from the European Broadcasting Union.

Greece's top administrative court has ruled that ERT's shutdown was within the state's rights, but that the government still needed to start running public broadcasts in some form as soon as possible.

After a month of no signal, Greek public television started broadcasting again last week, through a court-ordered channel called DT (Public Television) set up by the government.

DT has been airing stock footage, while former ERT staff continue their rival broadcasts.

The government has said it plans to run a temporary programme for about two months, until new staff is hired for Nerit to start running later this year.