The Ministerial Committee on Legislation will vote Sunday on a bill that would require the government to establish a 24-hour satellite television station in English and Arabic.
The bill, submitted by former Israel Broadcasting Authority chairman and current MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), was signed by 25 lawmakers from various factions.
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has expressed support for forming such a channel, but it was unclear on Saturday night how he would instruct ministers loyal to him to vote on Shai’s bill.
The IBA has already taken steps toward the formation of an international television station. A public tender was published to head the station for which IBA English News head Steve Leibowitz submitted his candidacy before Friday’s deadline.
Leibowitz expressed hope that current efforts in the IBA would lead to
the formation of a long-awaited English-language Israeli news network.
But he also expressed support for Shai’s bill, which is is intended to
expedite the process already initiated by the government.
“Part of the vision of the IBA has to be presenting Israel to the
world,” Leibowitz said. “I hope Nachman succeeds. I wish him well.”
Shai’s bill would require the new satellite TV network to be available
free in Israel and the entire Middle East. It would force the IBA to
come up with a plan for the formation of such a station within a month
of the legislation taking effect, and to get the channel on the air
within six months.
The government began taking steps toward forming a satellite network in 2001, but it has yet to be formed.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss criticized the lack of an Arabic television station last year.
“Israel is the only country in the region that does not have an Arabic
television station, while our residents are exposed to what is broadcast
from the countries around us,” Shai said. “Not speaking to the
countries in the region in Arabic and English encourages the isolation
of Israel and hostility toward the country.”