MK Erel Margalit.
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit demanded on Monday the immediate appointment of a public broadcasting council to oversee the dissolution of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the launch of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) that will take its place, at the first meeting of a special Knesset committee regarding the public broadcasting law.
Margalit lambasted the government at the meeting, headed by coalition chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s non-attendance of the panel’s first meeting angered Margalit, who demanded that the new service be established immediately before Netanyahu, to whom he contemptuously referred as “the communications emperor,” could turn it into a political vehicle. Margalit also stressed the importance of winning the confidence of IBA employees and insisted that the new broadcasting service be headquartered in Jerusalem.
A delegation of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, largely made up of IBA journalists, met on Sunday with President Reuven Rivlin to explain the frustrations and anxiety which IBA employees are experiencing.
They are living in limbo, not knowing who will be absorbed into the PBS, which is supposed to have only 400 employees, while IBA has more than twice that number.
Conditions of the impending dismissals have not yet been publicized, and a number of employees have expressed willingness or have already taken early retirement to avoid stress.
The delegation sought the president’s help in attempting to prevent the closure of the IBA. Rivlin told them to consider him a friend and promised to help them in any way that he could. He is confident that the IBA would not be closed down before the establishment of the new PBS. Rivlin also emphasized the importance in a democracy of multi-cultural pluralistic public broadcasting, in which many and varied viewpoints could be expressed.
Although many of the current employees, especially those in the 50-plus age group, are concerned that they will be unable to find jobs once the IBA no longer exists, Margalit is certain that many of them would be snapped by commercial broadcasting outlets, which he thinks would be a great loss to public broadcasting given the collective load of talent and experience.
He asserted that the IBA employees are an enormous asset to Jerusalem.
In order for the new broadcasting service to be established as quickly as possible, Margalit said that it is essential for Netanyahu and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to appoint a public broadcasting council without delay.
Such appointments are long overdue, he stated.
IBA receiver and liquidator Prof. David Hahn confessed that he is violating the conditions of his role on an almost daily basis because the Finance Ministry has put a stranglehold on him.
Akunis said that everyone should be interested in having the new public broadcasting service go to air on April 1, 2016.
According to the Communications Ministry, implementation of the public broadcasting law will be carried out in two stages.
If an agreement is reached by October on the retirement or dismissal of all the employees, it will be possible to proceed to the second stage and to appoint a council. But if the status quo continues with special hearings and courts cases, the IBA will simply be liquidated.
Finance Ministry director-general Shai Babad said that, regardless of the conditions under which any employee leaves, each of them will get what has already been agreed to.
There had been an agreement with the unions that 300 employees would take voluntary retirement, he said.
The journalists attending the meeting did not believe him, given the past history of the government reneging on signed agreements with the Journalists Association and the Histadrut.