The future of the Israel Broadcasting Authority is to be more or less determined this week by the special Knesset Committee set up by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan under the chairmanship of Yesh Atid MK Keren Elharar.
Erdan announced soon after the January 2013 election that he was opposed to the existing agreement to reform the IBA, saying that it had more holes than Swiss cheese. He was supported in this by Finance Minister Yair Lapid. Lapid, who used to host a program on Channel 1, even said with a grin that they had come to sign the IBA’s death notice.
The government bill on the matter would close the IBA and replace it with a new public broadcasting entity with about a third as many employees.
Examining the situation last week on Channel 10, economic reporter Matan Chodorov and former IBA director-general Moti Kirschenbaum, who hosts a current affairs program on Channel 10 with Yaron London, who is also a former IBA employee, said there really is no justification for closing down the IBA. It does need reforming, but not closing, they agreed.
The initial wording of the bill, which has already passed its first reading, raised the hackles not only of IBA employees and their respective unions but also those of the Israel Democracy Institute.
Erdan had the bill revised, but even the amended version, according to Chodorov and Erdan, gives ministers and MKs more power over public broadcasting than they had before.
Chodorov also said that while the employees of the new public broadcasting network will have the same obligations as public servants, they will not have the same perks, and there seems to be no provision for job security or collective agreements.
The disturbing element from his perspective was that the slightest deviation from the budget could result in the communications minister or the finance minister taking over and calling the tune at what has been touted as a politically free entity.
Salaries and wages have been designated as representing 35 percent of the budget, and if they go one agora beyond, said Chodorov, the finance minister can begin dictating the show.
Erdan has government support. The IBA has the support of some, but not all, members of the communications industry, and of former ministers such as Yossi Sarid, Press Council President Dalia Dorner, and mayors in peripheral towns because the IBA reports much more on the periphery than do commercial radio and television networks.
IBA workers and supporters broadcasting through the different IBA media are warning that news will be cut to a minimum, and that foreign language broadcasts will in all likelihood be dropped.
As they do every Friday, IBA employees demonstrated outside Erdan’s home in Savyon.