Erosion in the communications industry may have far-reaching effects, Prof. Yechiel Limor, an associate of the Jerusalem Journalists Association warned MKs last week. He issued his warning to the special Knesset Committee that is weighing a bill to close down the Israel Broadcasting Authority and set up another public broadcasting entity in its stead.
While some of the stars of the industry may still be earning astronomical salaries, the overwhelming number of journalists and people in allied professions are being paid pitifully low salaries, and therefore fewer high-quality people are being attracted to the profession, Limor explained.
Rotem Avrutsky, chairman of the Tel Aviv Journalists Association, told the panel that top-notch journalists have already become the victims of belt tightening in the industry, and many are currently out of work. More will be heading in that direction if and when Channel 10 ceases broadcasting at the end of this year, he added.
The subject most frequently raised at the committee’s recent sessions is workers’ rights, which IBA representatives on the panel as well as several members of Knesset argue are not spelled out in the text of the proposed bill. Prominent in the discussions is the issue the rights of workers who will be dismissed if the bill.
At a meeting last week, a screaming match over the rights and future of IBA workers erupted between Meretz MK Ilan Gilon and Communications Minister and Likud MK Gilad Erdan, the author of the bill.
Erdan had claimed that, for the first time ever, the public broadcasting radio network would be protected by law.
“Who cares about the radio being protected by law?” Gilon exploded. “What about protecting workers by law?”
Raising his own voice Erdan warned: “If this law doesn’t pass, they’ll be in a much worse position and they know it!!!”
“Stop the hypocrisy” retorted Gilon. “I can show you twenty places where they waste more money than the Broadcasting Authority.”
Labor MK Eitan Cabel, though a keen supporter of Erdan’s proposed legislation, also took the side of the workers, saying, “The problem of the workers is on the table all the time.”
He made it clear that he was differentiating between the revolutionary reforms required at the IBA and the fate of the workers who may simply be thrown into the street.
“We will not cooperate with you until you take care of the workers” he threatened. “It has nothing to do with coalition or opposition. People are leaving what is their home – and they have nowhere to go. The workers are living in a perpetual state of uncertainty.”
Yesh Atid MK Keren Elharar, who chairs the special committee, interrupted to insist that there is daily negotiation with the workers – which was met by a chorus of protests from IBA people, one of whom compared the impasse in the negotiations with that in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Many public figures have made statements in radio commercials endorsing Israel Radio and declaring the necessity of keeping it intact, while carrying out needed reforms. The general message is that the workers should not be punished for the failures of the IBA management, and if anything requires changing it is management and not the public broadcasting service.
One provision of the bill is a dilution of the influence of the communications and finance ministers on the dayto- day operations of the new public broadcasting entity. A clause was eliminated that would allow the communications minister to dismiss the director- general of the broadcasting network.