A broadcasting room at Israel Radio.
(photo credit: COURTESY IBA)
Following the announcement on Monday that a special Knesset committee, to be headed by coalition chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), will be appointed to deal with final legislation of the public broadcasting bill, the Jerusalem Journalists Association called an emergency meeting of Israel Broadcasting Authority journalists for Wednesday.
The meeting is designed to examine scenarios that could emanate from Hanegbi’s committee, but will be deferred in the event that Hanegbi convenes a committee meeting on the same morning.
The appointment of a special committee was announced by MK David Bitan (Likud). This did not sit well with MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), who chairs the Knesset Economic Committee and is a former minister responsible for the IBA. In Cabel’s view, the amendment which essentially takes into account the dismantling of the IBA, the budget required during the liquidation period, and the cost of setting up a new public broadcasting service to replace the IBA, is naturally within the purview of the Knesset Economics Committee.
Cabel said that he could not understand why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who currently holds the Communications portfolio, has gone over his head and is constantly depriving him of authority.
Hanegbi’s response was to tell Cabel to stop griping, and to remind him that when the shut-down of the IBA was being debated last year, it was also done by a special committee headed by coalition member MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid).
Hanegbi implied that Cabel was angry because some of the political wind had been taken out of his sails, but Cabel retorted that it was pathetic to even suggest this, considering that he had voted with the coalition on the bill.
There is no coalition or opposition where public broadcasting is concerned, he said. Public broadcasting is designed to reflect all opinions, but the coalition is forcing it back into a political corner.
In addition to Hanegbi, the special committee will include MKs Yinon Magal of Bayit Hayehudi, who happens to be a former IBA news anchor on Channel 1, Robert Ilatov from Yisrael Beytenu, Karin Elharar, Yoav Ben-Tzur from Shas, two representatives from the Zionist Union, and one representative from United Torah Judaism.
For several months now, certain Israel Radio anchors have been signing off by reminding listeners that the station is in a state of liquidation, but as yet the greatest fear of all IBA employees has not materialized.
The final closure of the IBA also means the firing of all its employees, who number well over a thousand. There is no guarantee that any of them will be employed by the new public broadcasting enterprise.
Prior to the advent of Israel Radio in 1948, the Palestine Broadcasting Service operated under the auspices of the British Mandate and was modeled on the BBC. Channel 1’s predecessor, known as Israel Television, went on air in black and white in May 1968, and there was no daily color television until February 1983, although there were some special events shown in color from 1977 onward.
The IBA has been mismanaged and running on a huge deficit for decades. There have been numerous attempts to introduce reforms, more efficiency, and cutbacks in expenditure through considerable reductions of staff.
Even when the workers’ unions, the Histadrut, and the Journalists Association agreed to large-scale dismissals, something always happened at the eleventh hour to prevent the reforms from being implemented.
Even now, reports of the IBA’s demise have been if not greatly exaggerated, at least premature. Two deadlines have already passed, and the next deadline as approved by the Knesset is March 2016, which happens to be the 80th anniversary of public broadcasting in the Holy Land.