A bill to close down the Israel Broadcasting Authority and to establish another public broadcasting service in its place was put forward late on Wednesday, for second and third (final) readings in the full Knesset.
The revised bill will be presented to the parliament in two weeks’ time and if approved, the dismantling of the IBA will begin immediately afterward.
The management of the IBA will be placed in the hands of a liquidator for the duration of the changeover period.
If agreement is reached, the new public broadcasting service will be launched on March 31, 2015, with three new television channels and a network of eight radio stations.
Ariel Yaacob, the chairman of the Union of State Employees, who drew the work of the Elharar Committee (set up to discuss the future of public broadcasting) to a close on Wednesday night, voiced sharp criticism against the meetings of the committee and the speed with which deliberations are meant to be concluded.
At its closing session, the committee stipulated that no IBA employees would be dismissed during the interim period between the closure of one entity and the establishment of the new one.
The unions made a joint appeal to Elharar to suspend the deliberations for the duration of this national emergency period, but she declined, saying that terrorism must not be allowed to interfere with the day-to-day workings of the Knesset.
No agreement has been reached as to the conditions under which workers will be dismissed.
Legally the issue is complicated, because public radio is a state-owned entity, and some of its employees are state employees, who as such are entitled to certain conditions that the Finance Ministry is reluctant to approve.
Since the joint announcement by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Yair Lapid regarding dismantling the IBA, concern has grown among native English speakers, some of whom are dependent on IBA news in English, that they would lose this source of information.
MK Dov Lipman, widely regarded as the English-speaking sector’s “man in the Knesset,” was inundated with complaints and requests, met with the relevant authorities and raised it with Elharar’s committee.
He released a statement on Wednesday in which he reported “with absolute confidence” that the English news programming will continue.
The cost of establishing the new public broadcasting service is estimated to be NIS 340 million, with the proviso that the staff load will never exceed 750 people compared to approximately 2,000 whom the IBA currently employs.
The budget for the new public broadcasting service will rely on income from radio advertising, television sponsorship and car license fees, plus an injection of NIS 665m. from the Treasury in the first year or two of operation.