Labor faction chairman Herzog forms lobby for IBA

One option is to close down the existing enterprise and start again from scratch with a new operating format, greatly reduced payroll.

May 22, 2013 23:31
2 minute read.
Former minister Isaac Herzog.

fmr minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Isaac Herzog 390. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Labor Party faction chairman Isaac Herzog has set up a Knesset lobby to protect the interests of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, for which he was responsible when he served as welfare and social services minister.

Herzog formed the lobby in response to a report in Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot that Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who currently holds ministerial responsibility for the IBA, was considering a number of options to solve the problems of the financially strapped public broadcasting service. One of those options, according to the report, is to close down the existing enterprise and start again from scratch with a new operating format and a greatly reduced payroll.

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According to the report, Erdan has consulted with senior figures in the television industry, who have suggested a reexamination of the conditions under which the Finance Ministry opted to make funds available for implementing IBA reforms.

There has been talk of such reforms for more than three decades. Every so often there have been reports in the media, usually based on IBA press releases, that reforms are on the verge of implementation, that IBA negotiations with the trade unions and the Finance Ministry have resulted in signed agreements, and that several hundred IBA employees will be dismissed within the framework of the reforms, but with severance pay and favorable conditions.

At last count, 700 employees were waiting for the axe to fall. Some of them have been waiting in limbo for the best part of 30 years.

The cost of implementing the reforms, according to the report, is NIS 700 million.

Herzog said it was vital to the country’s interests to maintain a public broadcasting network.

Based on his own experiences with the IBA and the Finance Ministry, he said he wanted to find out what the government’s intentions were toward the authority, and why the reforms had not gone ahead in accordance with the signed agreements. He expressed concern that if Erdan decided to go ahead with the plan to close down the IBA, there was a strong possibility it would never reopen, and almost 2,000 people would be out of work.

This latest development is yet another attempt to frighten professional journalists into serving the interests of the government, he said, charging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with having intended, for a number of years, to close down the IBA.

Instead of shutting the authority down, said the Labor faction chairman, it would be prudent to advance legislation that would make the IBA entirely independent of whatever political administration was in power.

According to Herzog, the prime minister and other ministers in the government should remember that the journalists working at the IBA are professionals, and not subcontractors hired to promote the policies of the Public Diplomacy Ministry, nor should IBA journalists be dependent on the goodwill of the government as an employer.

Herzog plans to hold a meeting of his lobby next week.

The IBA declined to comment on the new threat it was facing.

Before the advent of commercial television and the profusion of cable and satellite channels in the country, the IBA played a significant role in the life of the nation. But over time, its ratings have plunged, and its power and influence have diminished.

The Yediot story appeared a day after i24, the new 24-hour international news channel that will be broadcasting in three languages from Jaffa, released a sneak preview of its coverage.

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