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Greece’s state television ERT is back on air after two years.

The Greek broadcaster was closed down in 2013 under austerity measures.

The left-wing Syriza party made the reinstatement of ERT a key pledge in January’s election, which it won.

Syriza said all of the more than 2,600 employees made redundant in 2013 have been offered jobs by the station.

Presenter Nikos Aggelidis said at the start of the first show on June 11: “It’s a special day for all Greeks, for those who love Greece and for those who love freedom of information.”

“We’re nervous. We’re very touched.”

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

His co-host Vasiliki Haina said: “It’s a special day for us, a difficult day.”

ERT’s television channel went off air in the middle of a program in 2013, and viewers saw only a black screen. There had been no warning of the channel coming to an end.

The decision to end ERT, which cost €300 million ($337 million) to run, led to protests on Greek streets.

Some said the network was plagued by cronyism and had appeared immune from cuts and reform.

While ERT continued to broadcast on the internet, a smaller-scale replacement, Nerit, was introduced in May 2014.

Nerit enjoyed moderate success despite a smaller staff, and secured Champions League football coverage and rights to broadcast the Eurovision song contest.

Nerit’s television operation merged with ERT on June 11.

The letters N and I were removed from the sign on Nerit’s building to spell ERT earlier this week.

ERT will be funded by a €3 surcharge added to electricity bills – less than the surcharge before it went off air.

Greece’s government, which is fighting to secure loans to help stabilize the country’s finances, called the reinstatement of ERT “a victory for democracy”.

The headquarters of Greece’s former state broadcaster ERT have been cleared by riot police, using tear gas to gain entry and arresting several people.

Police formed a cordon round the building in Athens, before going from room to room to evacuate protesters.

Former employees have occupied the building since the government closed ERT and sacked its 2,600 staff in June.

Greece’s conservative-led coalition said the state broadcaster cost too much to run in an economic crisis.

The closure of ERT prompted a left-wing party to withdraw from the governing coalition of PM Antonis Samaras in protest – a move which almost brought down the government.

Following the announcement of ERT’s closure in June, hundreds of staff refused to leave the building and continued to broadcast their programming via the internet.

The headquarters of Greece’s former state broadcaster ERT have been cleared by riot police

The headquarters of Greece’s former state broadcaster ERT have been cleared by riot police

Early on Thursday, Greek police arrived to secure the building in Agia Paraskevi, a suburb in the north of Athens.

Riot police used tear gas to disperse about 200 protesters outside the building, and then cleared each room inside.

Twenty or so workers were led out but three refused to go and were arrested. Police have now surrounded the building and protesters are gathering.

The state-run Athens News Agency reported that Panagiotis Kalfagiannis, a journalist and head of the ERT employees’ union, Pospert, was one of those held for public order offences.

ERT was Greece’s only TV broadcaster until the advent of private TV channels in 1989.

Despite several major overhauls to keep up with fierce private competition, a fall in ERT’s ratings in the mid-1990s triggered a long-running debate about its cost and efficiency.

In June, as Greece attempted to satisfy international creditors that it was fulfilling its debt restructuring and bailout commitments, PM Antonis Samaras announced the closure of ERT.

Antonis Samaras said the Greek exchequer could no longer afford to pay for a public broadcaster that cost more than $400,000 a year to run, and has refused to reinstate ERT unless it accepts a complete restructuring.

An interim TV station, called Public TV or DT, has been broadcasting in Greece since July while a restructured public broadcaster, called Nerit, is not expected to begin operating before 2014.

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The Greek government has decided to shut down the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT.

A government spokesman said transmissions would cease early on Wednesday.

More than 2,000 employees will be suspended until the company reopens “as soon as possible.”

Greece suspends state broadcaster ERT to save money

Greece suspends state broadcaster ERT to save money

It is the latest move in successive rafts of spending cuts and tax rises that the government hope will lead the country out of recession.

“ERT is a case of an exceptional lack of transparency and incredible extravagance. This ends now,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said, according to the AFP news agency.

Unions voiced strong opposition to the move.

An engineer at the broadcaster’s multimedia department who gave his name as Yannis said: “The government announced that channels will shut down at midnight – after that the screens will go black.

“According to the government, from tonight I will be unemployed. It is a complete shock. In four hours’ time I will not have a job.”

ERT is funded by a direct payment by of 4.3 euros added monthly to electricity bills.