ERT did not cut funding for a Yorgos Avgeropoulos documentary in 2023; the claim is from 2019

Posts on social media in July 2023 falsely claimed that Greek public broadcaster ERT had pulled funding for a hard-hitting political and social documentary following the re-election of the centre-right New Democracy in June 2023. Replicating verbatim text that circulated in 2019 about the film “AGORA II: Chained”, the posts presented this as a new development. The filmmaker, Yorgos Avgeropoulos, responded on social media that these posts had nothing to do with the present day. His documentary was released in 2020, without ERT as a producer.

The posts said that ERT president Konstantinos Zoulas had rejected funding for AGORA II: Chained (archived link) in favour of a current affairs show hosted by experienced journalist Olga Tremi.

“Yesterday Zoulas signed for Olga Tremi’s show to receive €800,000 and today he cut off the ERT and the Greek people’s grant to the award-winning Avgeropoulos. The grant was for the documentary AGORA 2,” says the text widely shared on social media in July 2023, for example here and here.

This is an exact replica of posts from 2019, when the acclaimed filmmaker was in negotiations with ERT over the production of the documentary. ERT was finally not among the film’s producers but it did secure broadcasting rights in Greece for a number of years.

A post with the misleading claim on Facebook published in July 2023. Screenshot taken on 12/07/2023

The original post was published in November 2019 by a Facebook account named Giannis Siatos. Siatos has commented under many of the 2023 posts that were re-using his text, pointing out that he had written it in 2019.

Examples of the 2019 writer’s comments under posts shared in 2023 on Facebook. Red frames added by AFP. Screenshots taken on 14/07/2023

Zoulas is the president of ERT as of July 2023, a position he has held since September 2019.

Olga Tremi is an experienced journalist who was given a show titled “10” on ERT in November 2019. At the time, it was reported that the show’s total cost would amount to 810,000 euros for 195 episodes. Tremi resigned from ERT in April 2020 for “serious personal reasons”, as per ERT’s statement.

Avgeropoulos points out the text is outdated

After learning that the 2019 post was being reshared after the June election, Avgeropoulos reacted in a Facebook post on July 12, 2023.

“Angry users comment in a heated way, but with bad timing, something that happened in 2019, as fresh news. The date goes unnoticed and the conclusion emerges effortlessly: ‘After the ND victory, Zoulas cuts a documentary of Avgeropoulos’ in the present tense and now. This is not the case,” he wrote.

The conservative New Democracy (ND) won the June 25 election with a clear majority.

The Facebook posts text compares Avgeropoulos and Zoulas, making a point of the filmmaker’s working-class background and presenting the ERT president as a product of elites.

“We cannot handle all this excellence,” reads a comment under the original post of 2019. This appears to be an indirect criticism of New Democracy’s narrative regarding excellence in its government: the “excellent” Avgeropoulos is compared favourably to the “elitist” Zoulas, but the state does not recognise this, according to the post.

In his reaction, Avgeropoulos wrote: “I don’t like these comparisons. Not with Zoulas but with anyone. Everyone has their own history and course. Everyone is judged by their actions and choices. Such comparisons are invalid for me.”

What actually happened in 2019?

The original text that circulated in claims in 2019 refers to the negotiations that Avgeropoulos had with ERT’s leadership over the public broadcaster’s role in the production of AGORA II, a film that follows Greece’s tribulations during the rocky 2015-2019 years marked by crises over finance and refugees.

The negotiations prompted some criticism from Avgeropoulos at the time. He said back in 2019 that ERT’s administration had committed 15,000 euros as a co-producer of the film in 2016. However, that commitment was not followed up and ERT ultimately withdrew from being co-producers of the film, he said. This did not mean the project was shelved.

ERT stated that Avgeropoulos had agreed to a new deal under which the broadcaster would buy exclusive broadcast rights in Greece.

AGORA II was first released in cinemas in February 2020. It was broadcast for the first time on Greek television by ERT on January 25, 2021.

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Author(s): Bronwen Roberts, AFP Greece

Originally published here.