ATHENS -- Exactly a month after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece closed the state television network ERT in a cost-cutting move that almost brought down his fragile coalition government, a bare-bones version of the service was back on the air on Thursday.
The broadcasts, consisting of old movies and documentaries, were meant to serve as a transition to a new government TV network -- even as ERT's headquarters remained occupied by most of the 2,700 fired employees, who have been transmitting their own pirate broadcasts via satellite.
The resumed official state programming began late Wednesday night with a classic Greek black-and-white 1960s comedy, followed by a documentary about a Greek surrealist poet. The fare replaced the test pattern that had been in place in recent weeks, following the surprise shutdown of the broadcaster on June 11. The old programs will be supplemented with a news ticker as soon as possible, according to Pantelis Kapsis, the new minister appointed to oversee creation of the new broadcaster, named New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television, or Nerit.
The sparse content of the transitional service, called Greek Public Television, or EDT, and its chunky primary-colored logo fueled a barrage of caustic commentary on Greek news Web sites and social networks Thursday. One news blog remarked that Greek authorities had "stolen the logo of Soviet state television."
Mr. Kapsis has been in talks with the fired ERT employees for the past two weeks, offering to rehire 2,000 of them on three-month contracts to staff the transitional service before the establishment of a leaner organization with less than half the original number of workers. The system is supposed to be in place within a few months, but negotiations have stalled over the objections of union members, who want the original ERT reopened and all jobs restored.
The employees have remained defiant, dismissing the interim channel as an "illegal creation" and an "imitation ERT."
The government pledged to set up an interim service after a top Greek court ruled last month that some public broadcasting service must remain on the air until a permanent replacement for ERT is operating. But even the transitional service will be in limbo until a compromise is reached with laid-off ERT workers.
Mr. Kapsis said Wednesday that hiring for the interim service would go ahead only if ERT's occupied headquarters were evacuated. But he added that the authorities were "not planning to send in the riot police."
The upheaval underscores the difficulties the government is likely to face in meeting demands by the country's international creditors -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- to reduce the Civil Service payroll.
Opposition is heating up already. The two main Greek labor unions, representing an estimated 2.5 million workers, have called for the fourth general strike of the year on Tuesday to protest a new round of economic measures, including a streamlining of the Greek Civil Service. A vote on the changes -- which include layoffs and wage cuts for thousands of civil servants -- is expected by July 19. Greece must push the changes into law to secure the first installment of 6.8 billion euros, or $8.8 billion, in aid that was approved on Monday by euro zone finance ministers.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.