Israel’s MediaWatch asks Erdan to reconsider appointment of Landes to panel on IBA

By
September 3, 2013 02:56

In IMW’s perception, Landes represents a conflict of interests as founding CEO of Koda Communications which produces state-funded local news programs.

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Gilad Erdan visits a factory in Kiryat Malachi

Minister Gilad Erdan 370. (photo credit: SHARON UDASIN)

Israel’s Media Watch asked Communications Minister Gilad Erdan to reconsider the choice of television producer and director Ram Landes to head a committee examining the IBA’s structure and operations – and make viable proposals for its reconstitution – in a letter sent Monday.

Agreements were reached last year for the implementation of Broadcasting Authority reforms. Nevertheless, when Erdan took office – only a few months ago – he put all agreements on hold and said that he wanted to close down IBA and reopen the public broadcasting service with a new, streamlined format.

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While Israel’s Media Watch – a long time critic of the Israel Broadcasting Authority – welcomes Erdan’s intention, it contends that his decision to put Landes at the helm of the investigating committee is a mistake.

The reason for this is that Landes represents a conflict of interests. A creator and executive producer of numerous award-winning programs and series, Landes is also the founding CEO of Koda Communications which produces state-funded local news programs.

In IMW’s perception, such programs come under the category of public broadcasting, and therefore Landes, in heading a committee that is probing Israel’s public broadcasting service, would be faced with a conflict of interests.

Whatever proposals the committee looking into the future of public broadcasting might make would be bound to impact on Koda Communications and its role in public broadcasting operations, the IMW letter states.

At a media conference in Tel Aviv on Monday, Erdan complained about the politicization of the IBA.

According to law, the IBA is supposed to be an independent, apolitical body, but said Erdan, this is not the case, which puts the IBA in breach of the law. He went on to distinguish between responsibility for the IBA and responsibility for carrying out the Broadcasting Authority Law. He clarified that only the latter was part of his purview.

Erdan was particularly concerned about “wasting” public funds on the IBA, claiming that since 2006, NIS 6 billion had been squandered on it.

Quoting from one of many investigative committees published with regard to the IBA, he cited a 2006 report stating that the public does not receive value for the broadcasting license fee that it pays.

Although skipping over the issue that the levy is neither for program content nor quality, but for the television receiver, he nevertheless said he is interested in reducing its cost.

Under the conditions of the presently frozen reforms, the IBA was to receive an additional NIS 700 million from the Finance Ministry. Erdan and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have effectively put a freeze on the transfer of funds, and Erdan wants the 10-member committee to complete its investigation into the future of public broadcasting, and make recommendations by the end of the year. The committee includes Yair Aloni, a former director general of the IBA, who could also technically find himself with a conflict of interests.

Even if the committee agrees with Erdan’s assessment that the only way to heal the ailing IBA is to close it down and start again from scratch, such a move will require legislative approval which will take a long time to push through.

In the meantime, Labor MK Isaac Herzog heads a Knesset lobby that is working to protect the interests of the IBA and its employees, 700 of whom were to be dismissed in the course of the gradual introduction of the reforms and have received a temporary reprieve.


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