The proposed closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority on the recommendation of the Landes report, has become a matter of international concern. The Brussels headquartered International Federation of Journalists has joined its Israel affiliate, the National Federation of Israel Journalists in calling on the Israeli government to revoke plans to close down the country’s only public broadcasting institution.
The IFJ released a statement on the subject which it also published on its website.
"We are deeply concerned by this absurd decision which will be a major blow to democracy, to media pluralism and to journalism as a public good in Israel," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.
"We send our solidarity and support to our colleagues at IBA and we call on the government of Israel to reverse these destructive plans which will deprive citizens of their right to honest, level-headed and unbiased information, and is also likely to mean the loss of many journalists' jobs." The statement was read out on Tuesday at the conclusion of an emergency rally at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv, jointly organized by the NFIJ and the unions within the IBA.
One of the IBA employees, of whom it can literally be said that she sleeps with the government – or at least a member of the government – Channel One current affairs anchor woman Geula Even who is married to Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, did not allow that factor to stop her from sternly criticizing Communications and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan who in the first week of March announced at a media conference that he had come to bury the IBA.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced at the same media conference that he had come to sign the death notice.
Even said that after the success that Moshe Kahlon, Erdan’s immediate predecessor as Communications Minister had achieved, it was understandable that Erdan should also want to chalk up a major success – but this should not encompass the closure of such an important democratic institution as the Israel Broadcasting Authority, she said.
Alluding to the squabbles between Erdan and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon over who is responsible for what, Even suggested that if Erdan wanted to close down any public institution and save the tax payers’ money, he should close down the Ministry for Home Front Defense.
Lapid came in for a severe drubbing from Israel Prize laureate Yaakov Ahimeir who said that he was incensed and insulted by Lapid whose declaration about signing a death certificate was made “as if we were war criminals”. When an announcement is made about a death, it is done with a serious expression on one’s face, Ahimeir continued. “You don’t look happy and satisfied with yourself.” Ahimeir said that he’d never seen anyone in a burial society looking gleeful, and advised politicians to learn to compose their features appropriately.
Ahimeir sounded a note of alarm when he said that if the government had broken its word in relation to signed agreements for the reform of the IBA, “why should we believe that the government will keep its word regarding the recommendations in the Landes report?” Ahimeir noted the contradictions in statements made by Erdan and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in relation to the Landes report, observing that Netanyahu has not signed the death notice for the IBA, and when asked, the prime minister said that he first had to study it before making up his mind.
Like Ahimeir, finance reporter Oded Shachar had nothing favorable to say about Lapid. “I have no respect for the Finance Minister,” said Shachar. “No-one will sign a death notice on my home.” Shachar has been at the IBA for 31 years which is more than half his lifetime. He underscored that government policy is so grounded in privatization “that anything that is public is not deserving of recognition by the Finance Ministry or the Government.” He compared the heavy handed treatment meted out to the IBA to the huge tax breaks and other perks given to tycoons.
He was particularly angry with Lapid who he said had worked for four years at the IBA building up his career.
Political reporter Ayala Hasson, listed some of the many scoops of public broadcasting saying that the IBA had courageously resisted political pressures against having them aired.
While she and other speakers conceded that that there was much to improve at the IBA the consensus was that it should be cured not killed.
Hasson and others also spoke of tempting offers they had received from commercial broadcasting outlets, but had refused them because they preferred to be able to report fairly without having to yield to political or economic considerations.
Speaking against the proposed closure of the IBA, Hasson said “It’s doubtful that anything that is closed down will reopen, because nothing is more permanent than something temporary.”
Moshe Negbi Israel Radio’s legal analyst said that he hoped the Landes report would find its way into the garbage bin of history. In the 45 years that he had been working at the IBA, he said, there had been many attempts to break free of political interference. “Whoever says that they’ll stop politicization by getting rid of the employees is a liar,” he declared.
Negbi and others acknowledged that there were some positive aspects to the Landes report and stressed that these could be implemented without closing down the IBA and dismissing close to 2,000 workers.
Not everything in the Landes report is bad, said diplomatic correspondent Chico Menashe. “The problem is that the bad outweighs the good.” Citing one of the examples of the bad, he said that the framework for choosing an executive board as outlined in the Landes report will not free public broadcasting from politics. “It will bind it with even stronger cables.”
Yitzhak Livni, a former director general of the IBA and one of the pillars of broadcasting in Israel commented that there was no democratic process in the Landes report. Something of a similar nature was also remarked on by Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Vice President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute.
Israel Radio political reporter Yoav Krakowski thanked the incompetent management of the IBA for being the cause of renewed unity among the workers. It’s not the workers who are to blame for the chaos within the IBA, he and others pointed out. “ It’s the politicians who appointed the management”.
There was consensus that workers were being held responsible for the faults of management or rather mismanagement.
Former government minister Yossi Sarid said that since retiring from public life, he had not participated in any protest demonstrations, but having worked at the IBA fifty years ago and out of respect for it, he had decided to join the struggle to keep it functioning. Even in the days when he worked for the IBA, he said, it was a public scapegoat, and has continued to be because journalists are an easy target.
IBA employees will gather again today, Wednesday in the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset while inside the Knesset some of their representatives will be appearing before the State Control Committee along with Erdan, representative of the State Comptroller’s office, the Communications, Finance, and Justice ministries, the NFIJ, and representatives of various NGOs to discuss the State Comptroller’s report on the IBA..