Israel Hayom may have to look for a new business model if a bill outlawing free daily newspapers passes into law.
The text of the bill, proposed by MKs Eitan Cabel (Labor), Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Elazar Stern (Hatnua), Ariel Attias (Shas) and Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid), says it seeks to “strengthen written journalism in Israel and ensure equal and fair conditions of competition between newspapers.”
“The result of free newspapers is that every wealthy person can influence public opinion in Israel,” Cabel said. “Free newspapers also hurt journalism as well as pluralism and democracy in Israel.”
The bill defines a free daily newspaper as one that is given out without payment six days a week and applies only to the four newspapers with the highest circulation in Israel, whatever they may be at a given time. The lowest-priced newspaper of the four cannot cost less than 70 percent of the second-lowest-priced paper, according to the bill.
As such, the legislation targets Israel Hayom, the pro-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu paper owned by his major supporter and donor Sheldon Adelson, who also contributes to Republican candidates’ campaigns in the US.
Sources in the Likud attributed the bill to Arnon Mozes, owner of Yediot Aharonot, Israel Hayom’s main competitor, whose coverage of Netanyahu is not nearly as positive as the Adelson-owned paper.
The source said that the leaders of the parties whose MKs proposed the legislation have good relations with Mozes.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid, for example, was a columnist for Yediot.
The bill’s explanatory section says it is based on “recognition that it is of utmost importance to protect print journalism in Israel. Journalism has the essential job of protecting freedom of expression, a cornerstone of democracy.”
“Today, we are in a situation in which print journalism is in a deep crisis that is only worsening and most newspapers are collapsing economically,” the bill continues.
“The purpose of this legislation is to take care of one of the main reasons that led to the crisis... the inability to truly compete based on excellence, because some newspapers are distributed for free.”
In the previous Knesset, opposition MKs sought to harm the Adelson-owned paper by proposing a bill that would not allow Hebrew-language newspapers to be owned by foreigners.