There are few reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for an independent, critical financial press in Israel, according to a report presented at the Israel Democracy Institute’s Caesarea Economic Forum on Wednesday.

The report, compiled by a group of six media, economic and workplace-relations experts led by Haifa University’s Dr. Roei Davidson, concluded that institutional barriers are hampering efforts being made by various business organizations to cover business in a more creative and critical manner.

Pointing out that the five major Hebrew language news and business dailies (Yediot Aharonot, Ma’ariv, Ha’aretz, Israel Hayom and Globes) are owned by a few powerful businessmen, the report said Israel needed to follow the example of the United States, where it claimed the financial press has flourished since the global financial crisis.

“There should be an effort to strengthen public media organizations alongside the existing commercial media through public funding (for example, via a license fee) and philanthropic funding,” the report said. “Such organizations would not replace the commercial media, but as seen from the situation in the US, could contribute to more pluralistic financial discourse.

“Most importantly, they could pave the way for a more ‘muscular’ investigative financial press, which requires considerable resources and layers of insulation from outside influences.”

The report urged existing media organizations to invest more in employee training and wages, saying it would improve their products in the long run. It said it recognized the importance of recent attempts by journalists to unionize, adding that such an initiative would not only improve employee bargaining power but also improve the quality of business journalism.

An IDI poll conducted ahead of the conference found that only 40.8 percent of university-educated people and 27.4% of non-university educated people believe the media are objective. The poll also found that 44.9% of Jews believe the financial press is objective, as opposed to only 10% of Arabs.

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