Some 100 employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority demonstrated outside the
Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday, protesting the failure by Finance
Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud
Beytenu) to honor an agreement for IBA reforms.
The accords were signed
last year following more than two decades of discussions, including six years of
intensive negotiations among IBA management, the Treasury and the Jerusalem
Journalists Association (JJA).
Last month Erdan, with backing from Lapid,
put a freeze on the reforms, leaving everyone directly or indirectly employed by
the IBA in limbo. Meanwhile, he began cobbling together an advisory committee to
come up with proposals for the structure of a more streamlined public broadcast
Veteran broadcaster Yaakov Ahimeir, a high-profile IBA employee
who last year was awarded the Israel Prize, warned that the government was
ruining its credibility because if it failed to honor a signed agreement there
was no guarantee it would honor other agreements it signs.
package was signed under the auspices of the previous government, something that
did not impinge on its validity or absolve the present government of its
responsibility to honor it, Ahimeir declared.
The IBA has had a long
history of disagreements between staff and management, and with both the Finance
Ministry and the JJA.
Achieving the accord was a both a painful process
and a Herculean task because it involved the dismissal of 700 employees who,
because of their varied professions, were represented by a multitude of unions
within the IBA and the Histadrut labor federation.
In the end the
agreement provided for better severance conditions, and several staff members
were even happy to take early retirement, knowing they were not going to starve.
Others waited in trepidation for the ax to fall but did not expect the brusque
disregard by Erdan, who, less than three months after his appointment, began
talking about closing down the broadcast body entirely.
“We agreed that
the IBA is a cumbersome body and that it needs to be reformed and trimmed down.
But there’s a big difference between trimming down and shutting down,” a
spokesperson for employees, asking for anonymity, told The Jerusalem
“We love the place we work for and we love what we do,” the
spokesperson said. “Now we are all terrified of what the future will
Erdan has also been quite caustic in complaining about
mismanagement. What this could bring about is a closing of ranks, as the people
in IBA managerial positions are also employees.
As a result of the fact
that there are a lot of complex legal issues at play when it comes to the status
of the IBA and that the government has several other important matters with
which it needs to contend, it is doubtful that any concrete changes will take
place on Erdan’s watch.
Many feel that his decisions have only earned him
a lot of enemies, especially among those IBA employees with young families to
As for Lapid, it is believed that the finance minister is
spitting in the well from which he once drank.
Although a print
journalist since his army days, he launched his television career just under 20
years ago on the IBA’s Channel 1. Critics speculate that, were it not for the
exposure he gained at the IBA, he might not have been able to arrive at where he
In addition, Lapid’s late father, Joseph (Tommy) Lapid, was
director-general of the IBA from 1979 to 1984. With his Archie Bunker-style
bluntness, the senior Lapid also appeared regularly on Popolitica, Channel 1’s
popular weekly round-table screechfest.
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