Netanyahu accused of harming democracy for not throwing lifeline to Channel 10

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On called Netanyahu's lack of action to save financially stricken Channel 10, "a dark day for democracy."

December 29, 2014 09:42
3 minute read.
Channel 10

Channel 10 shutdown message. (photo credit: screenshot)

Politicians cast blame on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the impending closure of Channel 10, which is set to go dark on the last day of the year when its broadcasting license expires.

The station has received repeated warnings that unless it pays the NIS 36 million debt it owes the Second Authority, its broadcasting license will not be renewed.

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Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshawsky last week informed the Second Authority that the required sum had been raised, but again was met with the threat of discontinuation of the broadcasting license unless he disclosed the source of the funding, which he refused to do.

As a result, Channel 10 blacked out its screen late Sunday night, blaming Netanyahu, who currently holds the communications portfolio, for failing to find a solution to its problems.

Over the years, Channel 10’s chief investor, businessman Yossi Maiman, has poured tens of millions of dollars into the financially ailing outlet.

US businessman Ronald Lauder did the same until he decided earlier this year to opt out of his involvement.

Another investor is Israeli-American film producer Arnon Milchan.

Channel 10 has been very critical of Netanyahu and his key supporter, American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a reason some suspect the prime minister has not done anything to rescue the station.

“Netanyahu is working on the Channel 10 issue with ulterior motives,” said Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog. “In order for the public to be able to change the channel, we must change the tyrant trying with all his might to hurt Israel’s media and the public’s right to know.”

Herzog’s running mate, Hatnua head Tzipi Livni, said she would stand by Channel 10 despite its criticism of her. “We are here to protect the citizens of Israel, not ourselves,” Livni said, accusing Netanyahu of using his power to silence the media. If Netanyahu didn’t act, she said, she would seek a temporary license in an emergency session until the issue could be sorted out.

Following their statements, Labor MK Eitan Cabel wrote to Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, the coalition chairman, requesting that a law be passed by the end of the month extending Channel 10’s license for two years.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid called for Netanyahu to intervene and adopt the recommendations prepared by the Treasury during Lapid’s tenure as finance minister.

“There is a framework already on the table in the Finance Ministry that we prepared to regulate the broadcasts on Channels 2 and 10, which will prevent the closure of Channel 10 and allow it to continue broadcasting,” Lapid said. “All Netanyahu has to do is take it out of the drawer and implement it. A democratic country needs a strong and free media. We must not allow interests stemming from personal considerations to overcome the need to preserve a free media and democratic values.”

President Reuven Rivlin, a former minister of communications, said on Monday morning that darkening the Channel 10 screen would cast a shadow on Israel’s democracy, especially during an election period. It would reduce competition in the communications market, he declared.

“We cannot afford to lose a broadcasting channel, especially at a time when we need to be exposed to a diversity of opinion,” he insisted.

Rivlin stressed that there was no argument over the payment of debt, which is “a must.” But at the same time, he said, an interim solution would have to be found at least until the formation of a new government.

Dialogue and diversity of opinion are conditions of a healthy democracy, he added. The Jerusalem Journalists Association, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that even though Channel 10 employees did not stand by the Israel Broadcasting Authority during the traumatic period in which the future of its entire staff was under threat – and in fact continue their stance during the IBA’s liquidation – the association nonetheless did not want to see Channel 10 go under.

“We want it alive and kicking,” the statement said, adding that it called on all authorities in Israel to do everything possible to ensure the continuity of the station. “While Channel 10 is fluttering between life and death, it has the unhesitating support of the Jerusalem Journalists Association,” the statement said.

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