Public broadcasting that is totally dependent on the state budget is more vulnerable to political influence, according to the European Broadcasting Union, which has condemned the cabinet’s decision to close the Israel Broadcasting Authority within a year.
The EBU has expressed grave concern over the impending closure and the decision to establish another entity in its place, EBU director-general Ingrid Deltenre declared on learning of the decision. The IBA has been in consultation with the EBU ever since Communications Minister Gilad Erdan made public his intention to dismantle the IBA.
Deltenre said the decision to cancel the broadcasting license fee starting in March 2015 was a mistake, and that the recommendations of the Landes Committee on public broadcasting leave too much room for political interference. The EBU is concerned that decisions on the date of closure, license fees and other fundamental issues have been taken before a political agreement has been reached on the structure of the replacement broadcaster – including its governance, funding and remit.
“It is deeply regrettable that such drastic steps have had to been taken,” Deltenre said. “We shall watch vigilantly as the situation develops in Israel, to ensure that the Landes Report’s commitment to public service broadcasting will be honored.”
Deltenre said that governments are frequently unrealistic when implementing audiovisual reforms, and overlook the need to meet several key conditions for public service media to function properly. These include efficient and transparent governance; a clear, broad and dynamic remit; sustainable long-term funding; and independence ensured by legislative protection from government interference.
“Scrapping the license fee is a step in the wrong direction,” she said. “The Landes Report attributed many of IBA’s problems to political interference, but a broadcaster that is entirely dependent on direct state budget funding will logically be even more vulnerable to political interference.”
Erdan appointed the Landes Committee to look into the way in which the IBA functions and make recommendations based on its findings.
A previous reform plan had been approved prior to the most recent Knesset election.
After more than a year of negotiations, agreement had been reached on all sides, with unions agreeing to the dismissal of close to half the staff. Erdan and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, however, chose to opt for something more drastic.
The EBU said it doubts whether an alternative to the IBA can be set up within the 10 months specified in Erdan and Lapid’s proposal.
What has been presented to the government is in Deltenre’s opinion unrealistic. The EBU is opposed to any measure that would deprive Israelis of public broadcasting. A new public broadcasting network cannot be created overnight, Deltenre warned.
Carmela Menashe, the veteran Israel Radio defense reporter who was one of the torchlighters at the opening of the Independence Day festivities on Monday night, did so in the name of what she called her home – the IBA, and for the sake of unfettered public broadcasting.