Iran saves Israel Radio foreign broadcasts

Ahmadinejad's belligerence justifies continued funding.

By
August 3, 2010 04:27
3 minute read.
AMIR GILAT, the new Israel Broadcasting Authority chairman, shakes hands with President Shimon Peres

Amir Gilat Peres 311. (photo credit: Josh Freedman)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would probably be so distraught to learn that he’d done something good for Israel that he would tear his hair out in despair.

On Monday, during the presentation of committee reports at the first meeting in more than a year of the plenum of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, it transpired that Ahmadinejad had inadvertently salvaged Israel Radio’s foreign language broadcasts relayed through Radio Reka.

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Some of these broadcasts were in danger of being scrapped due to budgetary constraints, but once the Iranian situation began to intensify, there was renewed interest in Farsi, which soon became one of the languages of major importance.

Broadcasts about Iran in other languages gave Reka a new lease on life.

Another factor that emerged during the presentation of reports was that nearly all of the committees had been all but dormant over the past year or so, which indicated that the IBA could function quite well without them, and brought into question – at least in the mind of this reporter – whether the Broadcasting Authority Law should not be revised in tandem with IBA reforms to eliminate some of the obviously unnecessary IBA institutions.

The meeting was convened by IBA chairman Amir Gilat, who was recently appointed to the post which had been vacated some 12 months earlier.

A stickler for punctuality, Gilat politely but firmly made it clear that Mediterranean mean time will not be tolerate on his watch.

Although he was still in the learning process of getting to know what the IBA is all about, he referred to it as “the air we breathe” and declared that in order to justify its existence it had to have “quality, relevance and innovation.”

He added that he would do everything possible to advance the implementation of the IBA reforms, stating that they represented a window of opportunity, and that all the loose ends had to be tied up as quickly as possible.

His own definition of reform, he said, was that the television viewer and the Internet surfer would see it and the radio listener would hear it.

He stressed the importance of upgrading the IBA’s image in Israel and abroad with the aim of attracting “a younger public and not just the traditional audience.” He also has plans for changing the overall character of Channel 33 and of Arabic television broadcasts in particular.

There is a rumor going around Israel Television that Channel 33 will eventually become a 24-hour news channel broadcasting in different languages. How many languages has not yet been discussed, and Gilat did not broach the subject on Monday.

However Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has publicly favored for a 24-hour news channel, and this may be the chance to get it going.

This may also help to improve the IBA’s dwindling ratings, which soared during the World Cup broadcasts, but subsided again almost immediately afterwards.

Ratings need to be better, Gilat acknowledged, but they shouldn’t be the main focus, he said.

In its current status, the plenum is just an interim entity, until Netanyahu, who is the minister responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting authority Law, appoints a new plenum.

Although Gilat made it clear that there would be regular and frequent meetings of the plenum in the future, it is doubtful whether the outgoing plenum will be effective given its short remaining shelf life.

Gilat said that once a new plenum is appointed he will think about making structural changes in the committees.

IBA director general Moti Sklar said that only a few minor points of agreement had to be settled between management and workers to enable the final legal wording of the agreement that would set the reforms into motion.

He envisaged a major television breakthrough in 2011 as an alternative to programs provided by commercial channels.

It was all very well to have exclusivity on certain kinds of programs in which Channel One specializes, he observed, but Channel One also has to be competitive and to include more programs with popular appeal without sacrificing its core values.

He intends to expand the range of sports, satirical and late-night shows as well as those that host studio guests.


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