According to the latest TV ratings numbers, increasingly smaller audiences are tuning into the campaign ad broadcasts ahead of the election.

Over the past decade, says Hebrew University political communications Prof. Tamir Sheafer, the campaign commercial broadcasts – which are shown in blocs of 45 minutes to an hour on each of the three major broadcast networks – channels 1, 2 and 10 – for three weeks prior to the Knesset election, have received increasingly low ratings.

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An estimated 400,000 viewers watched the political advertising programs during this election season, with the highest average rating of eight percent belonging to Channel 2’s 11 p.m. broadcast.

Channel 10, which showed its campaign ads after 6 p.m., received a 6% rating and Channel 1 came in last with only a 2.5% share of television viewers.

Four years ago, ahead of the 2009 election, the ad blocs received approximately 20% of the viewer share.

“Having all the political advertisements in one bloc is simply obsolete,” said Sheafer, adding that it was created when Israel had only one channel, and most citizens were glued to their screens while they were broadcast.

“Since the advent of multi-channel television and, now, the Internet, people who are not interested in politics simply choose another channel.”

Currently, every party is allocated seven minutes of TV advertising and an additional two minutes for every outgoing MK.

According to the Foreign Ministry “the principle of equal opportunity” prohibits political parties from independently purchasing airtime.

This is not good for the channels’ bottom lines, says Sheafer. “The channels are forced to run the advertising and it costs them money.”

Moreover, he says, as these stations are “partially public,” the advertising ends up costing the taxpayer as well.

The system, he advises, is ripe for reform and the low ratings garnered by political advertisements indicate a need to emulate the current free market system in the United States.

“Political advertisements, which we think are important, should be presented as regular advertisements – just between the programs like any other commercial advertisement,” he said.

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While campaign videos – such as the 2009 Green Leaf party commercial featuring then-party head Gil Kopach smoking marijuana on David Ben- Gurion’s grave – have gone viral online, Sheafer asserts that Israelis still get most of their political information from television.

2009 Green Leaf party commercial featuring then-party head Gil Kopach smoking marijuana on David Ben- Gurion’s grave.

“Parties that work only on the Internet are not doing very well,” he said.

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