Channel 10 petitioned the High Court of Justice to intervene to save it Sunday afternoon, less than a day after the cash-strapped television network announced that it would implement the dismissal of around 500 employees on Monday.
“Prime Minister [Binyamin Neyanyahu] is foiling implementation of an agreement that would allow Channel 10 to continue operating,” attorneys Yoram Bonen and Dor Lahav wrote to the court. They accused the PM of instructing ministers - “without giving any explanation” - not to discuss the deal at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting
Two weeks ago, a team headed by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Harel Locker agreed to a proposal by which the state would extend Channel 10’s license by two years and loan it NIS 65 million to enable it to repay its debts. The network is expected to close at the end of the year if the cabinet does not approve the deal beforehand.
Channel 10’s board confirmed Saturday night that it would dismiss its employees in advance of final closure, but it delayed dispatch of the dismissal notices by 48 hours following a request from Locker. The board convened after it became apparent that the government would not approve the plan to save the network. Indeed, the matter was not discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Yossi Meiman, Channel 10 controlling shareholder, said at the board meeting: “In my many discussions with the Communications Ministry there were more lies and false promises than there were ministers. At no stage was there any attempt to deal with this industry’s problems. Instead of encouragement, every effort was made to destroy the industry – and it is almost certain that they have managed to destroy it.”
Israel's main Center- and Left-wing parties Labor, Meretz, Yesh Atid and The Tzipi Livni Party on Sunday all accused the Netanyahu government of working deliberately toward the bankruptcy and closure of Channel 10.
In separate press statements, Meretz and Labor charged that Netanyahu was acting against the channel because its editorial line "does not serve" the prime minister, while Yesh Atid and The Tzipi Livni Party joined in calling the government moves "anti-democratic."
Labor party head Shelly Yacimovich charged the prime minister with personally intervening in demanding the closure of the channel despite agreements reached by all involved parties that would have saved it. "This is is flagrant, destructive, anti-democratic conduct that will will cut the bread-winnings of hundreds of families, something which is well known and which doesn't concern Netanyahu in the slightest."
"This is another step in the anti-democratic efforts of 'Biberman' (an amalgamation of the names Bibi, Netanyahu's nickname, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman)," Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said. "(Netanyahu is working) against every address for critical thinking - in court, academia, culture, civil society organizations, and media."
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said "I am wholeheartedly against government actions on this issue. Channel 10 must continue to exist. This is harming democracy, it is harming freedom of expression, it is harming the journalism market and it is harming Israeli media."
The Tzipi Livni Party candidate and current MK Yoel Hasson on Sunday slammed Netanyahu over the state of Israeli media. "The public must awaken to Netanyahu's campaign to destroy the free media in Israel," Hasson said. "This method of silencing opinions and legislating anti-democratic laws must stop."