Christian network asks to stay on air

According to court petition, decision by the HOT cable company is 'severe violation' of freedoms.

September 19, 2007 01:00
2 minute read.

A Christian TV network that runs missionary advertisements directed at Jews has petitioned the High Court of Justice after Israeli cable television decided to drop the station. According to the petition, the decision by the HOT cable TV company was "a severe violation" of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The decision to pull the plug on the Daystar TV network was made in July, one month after HOT renewed their contract, the petition said. The cable company subsequently returned the year fee that Daystar had paid. A spokeswoman for HOT said previously that the decision to stop broadcasting the station was made "out of editorial and content considerations" and following complaints the company received for broadcasting the network. But the petition, which was filed in the country's highest court last month, stated that there had been no change in programming over the one month since the contract's renewal. The Council for Cable TV and Satelite Broadcasting, which was due to authorize the move to cancel the station, met but failed to make a decision on the issue, thus making the council the primary litigant in the suit, Daystar's Israeli attorney, Amir Vitkon, said Tuesday. The first hearing on the case is scheduled for October 31. The station, on the air in Israel since last year, is still broadcast on Israeli satellite TV. The Dallas-based Daystar network broadcasts a motley of Biblical teachings from the New Testament, but also includes 15-minute infomercials from the Jewish Voice Ministries International organization, targeting a Jewish audience with the message of Jesus. The network, which is similar to many Christian religious stations in the US, is broadcast on channel 110 on YES, and used to be available on HOT upon request. The network has 128 million viewers in the US, including 60 million viewers on cable and satellite, and is now available in more than 200 countries around the world. The Phoenix-based Jewish Voice Ministries International calls itself "a worldwide outreach that is dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the gentile throughout the world," according to its Web site. Yoram Mokady, chairman of the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, has said there were clear regulations for religious programming, including misinformation, frightening programming and programs directed at minors, but that there were no guidelines for missionary activity. Daystar was angered by the cable company's decision to cancel the station despite the council's failure to approve such a move. The broadcasts have been condemned by anti-missionary activists in Israel, who have long been wary of any connection with Christians, including Christian Zionists in Israel. The issue also underscored the delicate balancing act evangelical Christian supporters of Israel face, between proselytizing, which is banned in Israel, and their fundamental belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was foretold in the Scriptures and heralds the return of the messiah.

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