The beleaguered Channel 10 – which has won a temporary reprieve that finance and
broadcasting experts say is merely a delaying tactic until the plug is pulled
forever – has found a champion in President Shimon Peres.
agreed to an emergency meeting on Monday with representatives of Channel 10’s
management and workers, telling them it was his clear duty as president to be
among those coming out in defense of Israeli democracy, which includes the
freedom of expression.
“There is no true freedom of expression without a
full, broad and pluralistic press in Israel,” he said.
chairman Avi Balashnikov thanked Peres for receiving the delegation at such
This was a gesture that could not be taken for granted, he
said, adding that Peres had the appreciation of the family of every Channel 10
Channel 10 has reached a critical moment of truth, said
Balashnikov, and if the Knesset does not approve franchisee legislation that
will enable it to continue beyond the end of the year, it will signify its
“We had a tough fight for the future of Channel 10 and you
played an important role in that struggle – and this is not the first time we
are meeting on this issue,” Balashnikov told Peres. “This is a battle for
Israel’s image as a democracy, as a pluralistic state that permits freedom of
expression in accordance with the values set down in the Declaration of
“It is not easy to maintain a newspaper or a television
station in Israel at this juncture. Investors are not standing in line. Those
who do invest are losing tremendous sums of money and we are subject to enormous
pressures whenever we have to enter into discussions with the Knesset or the
Peres again expressed support for the channel’s continued
operation, and said his office was in constant contact with that of the prime
minister in hopes of finding a viable solution to the problem. He promised he
would continue to remain involved.
Michal Grayevsky, chairwoman of both
the finance committee on Channel 10’s board and the Nana 10 news service, told
Peres that after 18 months of striving to stay afloat, the dismissal of hundreds
of staff that had been scheduled for Monday morning was prevented only by the
intervention of the president.
“Your backing is of the utmost
importance,” Matan Hodorov, chairman of the workers’ committee, told Peres.
Freedom of expression is a vital factor for journalists, he said, and pledged
that Channel 10 journalists would do everything in their power to continue to
give the public complete and unbiased reports.
Underscoring that time is
of the essence, he was cautiously confident that Peres’s clear voice would be
heard by the legislators who hold the fate of Channel 10 in their hands.