Communications Minister Gilad Erdan remains determined to close down the Israel Broadcasting Authority lay off all its employees, and build a new framework for public television and radio.
No fewer than three Knesset Committees on Wednesday discussed the Landes Report prepared by a committee appointed by Erdan, which supported his previously announced decision to get rid of the IBA and replace it with an independent body that would be financed by the state budget and would be free of political interference.
Labor Party MK Shelly Yachimovich, who is a former IBA broadcaster, said that if the IBA had to depend on the state budget instead of the licensing fee for its funding, it would be more reliant on the political establishment than ever.
While there was consensus at meetings of the Economic Affairs, State Control and Finance Committees – at which IBA management and staff representatives were invited to speak – that the IBA was in desperate need of reform, the overwhelming opinion was that it should not be closed down.
Most speakers, at all three committees were concerned over the well-being of IBA employees, and several noted that under the previous signed reform agreement, which the Finance Ministry had abrogated, the IBA payroll would have had 700 fewer people, but these 700 would have left with favorable compensation and severance pay.
Erdan said that there was no option other than to shut down the IBA and replace it, because the existing situation is chaotic and cannot be allowed to continue. Attempts to improve it from within have failed, he said, adding that his bill for the closure of the IBA would be submitted for a first reading as soon as the Knesset reconvenes after its spring recess.
State Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen of Shas said that IBA employees must not be abandoned in the same manner as were evacuees from the Gaza Strip after the 2005 disengagement.
Shas MK Nissim Ze’ev said that putting Ram Landes at the head of the committee was problematic because as a television producer he had a vested interest in what was recommended in the report.
Economic Affairs Committee chairman Avishay Braverman of Labor, who is opposed to closing the IBA, and would rather see it transformed and reformed, said the new entity must be totally independent and free of political pressure.
He also thought it essential to keep top quality employees within the network rather than throw out the baby with the bath water.
While the committees were in session IBA employees held a protest in the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset.