Nearly 5 years after the Greek government's sudden closure of public broadcaster ERT, the case is now before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.
The application was filed in 2014 by POSPERT, the trade union representing ERT employees, and its President, Mr Kalfagiannis, after losing in the main proceedings before the Greek Supreme Court (Council of State). They argue that the closure was a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and information.
ERT's closure was perceived as an unprecedented blow to media freedom and pluralism in Europe and the applicants largely rely on the study commissioned by the EBU at the time, Public service media under Art. 10 of the ECHR, by Austrian Professors Walter Berka and Hannes Tretter.
At the end of last year, after preliminary examination of the admissibility of the case, the ECtHR gave notice of the application to the Greek government, indicating that the application was potentially a leading case. If confirmed, this could mean that the Court sees an opportunity of further developing its case law on Art. 10 (and, as the case may be, on public service media and a State's positive obligation to ensure media freedom and pluralism). It would also mean that the Court would grant the case the necessary attention and priority.
In view of the general importance of the case, and not least with PSM facing potential threats of closure or downsizing in other countries, the EBU applied to be granted leave to intervene as a third party. In late March the Court accepted the EBU's request, on condition that the submission be short and that it focus on the significance of the case for PSM, avoiding any comment on the actual merits or facts of the case.
The EBU intervention, drawn up in close cooperation with the authors of the above-mentioned study and in consultation with the EBU Legal and Policy Committee, was submitted at the end of April. It builds on the Court's existing case law (and in particular the Manole and Centro Europa decisions) and the understanding of the Convention as a "living instrument" which must be interpreted according to present-day conditions and common European values.
The EBU submission thus describes the current state of media freedom and pluralism in Europe, by taking into account changes brought about by the digital revolution. It also analyses recent standard-setting instruments at European level, which confirm the role of independent and sustainable public service media as an institutional guarantee of media pluralism.