Another Jewish 24-hour news channel on the way

British broadcaster Carolyn Mendelson looking for cash to launch TovNews24, create bridge, confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.

By
September 22, 2011 21:43
4 minute read.
CAROLYN MENDELSON.

CAROLYN MENDELSON. (photo credit: Courtesy of TovNews24)

While Kazakhstan billionaire Alexander Machkevitch was preempted this week by Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich in the tentative bid to set up a Jewish channel modeled on Al Jazeera, British broadcaster Carolyn Mendelson was in Israel talking to people in the communications industry about launching an English-language 24- hour radio broadcast from Israel.

She calls her proposed venture TovNews24, and is certain it could develop into Internet and television streams, providing Israel-related news, documentaries, features, debates and talkbacks that would reach out to the whole world.

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The idea is to tell many of the positive stories about Israel that get little or no coverage via other media outlets, Mendelson said.

In an interview in Tel Aviv with The Jerusalem Post, Mendelson, who lived in Israel for 12 years and operated what she called an English ulpan, where she taught English to Israelis, while praising various efforts to paint a more balanced picture of Israel than that which is currently portrayed, insisted that what she hoped would eventually become a multimedia news channel be headquartered in Israel.

Why, when everything is so accessible in our global village?

Because Mendelson sees her project not only as a news and current affairs outlet, but also as a bridge and ultimately a builder of confidence between Israelis and Palestinians. While debates and talkbacks can easily be conducted via the Internet or on the telephone, she acknowledged, nothing beats face-toface contact, because it’s in such situations that people can get to know each other either while waiting for their turn to go to air, or by continuing their conversation afterward.

Political negotiations at the government level are not the same as people-to-people contacts among Israelis and Palestinians who will ultimately have to coexist, she said.

Mendelson has drawn up a detailed plan that includes both the format and the costs, which she estimates would be around $5 million, but is certain, based on experience in the United States, that this money could be quickly recouped through direct and indirect advertising.

In Miami, the Glasgowborn Mendelson had her own radio talk show, Baby Hour, which she ran for nearly two years, and claims that her accent was not a deterrent. “The Americans loved it.”

The program was broadcast at 5 a.m. and was geared toward new and expectant mothers. Mendelson brought experts from every field of baby care, and in a very short time, people were lining up to appear on the show, which had an ever-growing audience of mothers who were feeding their babies at the crack of dawn. Mendelson made money from some of her interviewees by doing infomercials for them.

She is fully confident that once TovNews24 is up and running, companies, especially those interested in projecting both their own and Israel’s images, will be happy to advertise.

There is no need to set up a studio with expensive infrastructure, she said, because there are enough broadcasting outlets from which airtime can be bought.

Mendelson is buoyed by the growth of Al Jazeera, which started out in November 1996 as the first independent Arabic language satellite news channel, with a staff of 120 journalists who had been trained by the BBC.

It broadcast for six hours a day, then 12 and ultimately 24 by January 1999. Exactly 10 years after its first broadcast, Al Jazeera launched its English language broadcasts and expanded its news-gathering facilities, opening bureaus in many parts of the world. Today, it has a staff of around 2,500, including more than 400 journalists, and it claims to have more than 50 million regular viewers around the world and has plans to broadcast in additional languages.

The essential difference, of course, was the availability of finance and the willingness by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa to provide a loan of $137m. to enable Al Jazeera to operate free of financial worries for its first five years.

Mendelson is looking for seed money. She has spoken to cabinet ministers and other people of influence in the government, who have told her that she has a wonderful idea, but that they have no budgets. She has also spoken to business people who are wary of committing to large expenditures while the world is experiencing an economic crisis.

She has spoken to Israeli broadcasters who are madly enthusiastic, but who are in no position to finance her project.

The bouncy Mendelson remains undeterred. Other countries are promoting themselves through new media, as well as through satellite channels, and Israel must do the same before it is too late, she said.

Various groups and individuals have their own pro-Israel Internet sites, and publish blogs and YouTube items, but it’s not a coordinated effort, and even collectively, it’s not sufficiently effective, she said.

Mendelson hopes to bring together a team of trained and experienced professionals whose names are already household words, and then to try to follow Al Jazeera’s example on a smaller scale.

She is thinking of trying to raise capital in the same way that the Jewish National Fund in its early years raised funds through the Blue Box.

Tens of thousands of Jews around the world filled their Blue Boxes with coins, which when amassed amounted to considerable sums enabling the JNF to buy land, clear swamps and plant forests.

If enough Jews care to invest only a few hundred dollars each, the money will mount up the $5m. required to get the project moving for several months and to pay the salaries of some 20 broadcasting staff, she said.


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