Journalists at Greek public broadcaster ERT streamed its programmes online on Wednesday following the government’s decision to shut it down to save money.

ERT’s act of defiance was accompanied by an open-ended strike by Greek journalists.

ERT employees were joined by thousands of supporters outside the broadcaster’s main headquarters in criticizing the government’s decision to close the 75-year-old operation and lay off about 2,500 employees.

The closure is part of cost-cutting measures imposed by Greece’s international lenders. The government says there have been years of wasteful spending at the Greek equivalent of Britain’s BBC.

The journalists’ strike, promoted by the country’s Journalism Association, resulted in a news blackout on Wednesday.

Greece’s two largest private and public sector unions, GSEE and ADEDY, were holding emergency meetings to decide whether to join in the industrial action.

ERT chief executive Emilios Latsios said employees had been asked to leave the broadcaster’s buildings or face arrest.

The government said on Tuesday that ERT would eventually reopen under a different name and with fewer employees.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has staked the future of his fragile coalition government on the decision, which does not enjoy the backing of his two coalition partners.

The executive order to close ERT down must be ratified by parliament within three months, but cannot be approved without the support of coalition lawmakers.

Left-wing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras has called the closure “illegal.” Greece has carried out a series of austerity measures, including tax hikes and wage and pension cuts since it received its first tranche of emergency aid from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

ERT made its first public broadcast in 1938 and grew to three channels, seven national radio stations and 19 regional radio stations.

According to the government, it cost the country around 300 million euros a year.

More In: World | International | News