The media and the election campaign
Now that the election is over, one can look back at what role the
Likud campaign material Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
The recent elections have, once again, provided ample evidence that Israel’s
media, much too often, slides into the role of managing rather than reporting
On November 4, two-and-a half months before election day, an
article was published which noted that the public opinion poll business was
essentially an industry with “no trace of professional ethics, no standard for
determining who can be included, [working in] wild competition, obedient to only
the blind, hungry media.” The author further pointed out “that most journalists
and commentators are aware of the limitations of surveys, their errors and
failings, but ignore them.”
The author, Prof. Gaby Weimann from the
department of communication at the University of Haifa, was even more critical
of the journalists and editors who used the election polls to provide a sense of
entertainment and sensationalism; they were just “wild speculation and false
interpretations” and thus bordered on “toxic and dangerous,” he wrote.
few days later, Israel HaYom conducted a roundtable discussion on the subject in
its November 9 edition with Dr.
Mina Tzemach, Prof. Camil Fuchs, Prof.
Gabriel Weimann, Prof. Yitzhak Katz and Prof. Avi Diskin. The theme was, “Do
surveys only predict election results, or perhaps determine them by affecting
the way we vote?” Weimann stated that “paradoxically, surveys change the reality
they purport to reflect [and] often move voters from party to
Katz, director of the Ma’agar Mohot Institute, was adamant that
“there is a very high correlation between the responses of the public opinion
polls and actual voting,” although he added that certain sectors, such as the
ultra-Orthodox or Arabs, are more difficult to survey as they tend to vote en
masse, or clannishly.
Polls, however, were but one media
FIRST AND foremost the media should provide
Take, for example, Yossi Verter, writing in Haaretz:
“Everyone who’s been living here in recent years knows Yediot Aharonot’s war
against [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is [owner Noni] Mozes’s war against
billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his newspaper, the organ of the prime minister,
Israel Today... I wonder Yediot graduate Yair Lapid’s...attitude will be
when the bill to limit the activities of newspapers comes up during the 19th
This appeared three days after the elections. Why didn’t it
appear before the elections? Shouldn’t the public be made aware in advance of
the possible implications of their votes? Was it not the responsibility of the
media to highlight the possible future conflict of interest? In The Marker, on
January 24 – again, after the elections – Shuki Sadeh wrote a highly informative
article about Yair Lapid and his connections. Billionaire Arnon Milchan, one of
the owners of Channel 10, is one of his close friends and supporters. Lapid
retained his ties with Udi Angel, a shareholder of one of Channel 2’s
concessionaires, Reshet. Lapid’s political consultant is Uri Shani, formerly
Ariel Sharon’s bureau chief. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert maintains warm
ties with Lapid’s family to this day.
Lapid is also close to Yediot’s
publisher/owner Mozes, who nearly three weeks prior to the elections held a
sumptuous farewell party for Lapid at the Crowne Plaza hotel. Why wasn’t the
public informed of this prior to Election Day? ANOTHER EXAMPLE of an “ordinary”
omission was Rina Matzliah’s admission on Radio 103FM on January 24 that she
refused to cover the New Land list of Eldad Yaniv. While we are not fans of
Eldad Yaniv, it is still outrageous that a senior political correspondent and
commentator uses her power to prevent a legitimate political party from
presenting its agenda to the public.
On Aviad Kissos’ Radio 99 show that
same day we heard a guest being allowed to say that incoming MK Orit Struck
would “dip a rifle barrel cleaning cloth into Netanyahu’s blood and feed it to
While this happened after election day, it is
illustrative of the level of prejudice the media elite can possess – and
On January 9, during the election campaign, Channel 2 anchor
Yonit Levy referred to the Strong Israel party list as “extremist.” Meretz and
Balad are also extremist, but were not described as such by her. A report on
Army Radio in December 28 also had the term “extremist” describing Strong Israel
but not Balad, the party of MK Haneen Zoabi of Mavi Marmara fame.
type of media bias was further exemplified by senior commentator Emmanuel Rosen,
who on November 26 referred several times to the Likud “fascists” on the
Economic Light Channel 10 show.
IN A piece for the Seventh Eye internet
magazine published by the Israel Democracy Institute, Avmer Hofstein noted that
Netanyahu’s second term as prime minister was remarkable for its almost total
lack of regular ongoing press contacts.
Netanyahu did not have a “court
journalist” following his actions. His press conferences prohibited questioning
and the few to which he agreed were initiated by him for his own purposes. Did
the media express its frustration? Hofstein said the bottom line was that the
manipulation of the media by Netanyahu and the media’s willingness to accept
this type of senior governmental media manipulation prevented the public from
receiving the kind of informed information it would expect from a professionally
motivated media. The media was blindsiding the public.
that journalists should be more mature, more respectful of the prime minister,
criticizing in proportion and with a lot less sensationalism.
he argued, the media might get more concrete information and reliable insight
into the workings of the office of the prime minister, to the benefit of us
We respectfully disagree. The prime minister is a public servant,
accountable to the public, and it is the media’s job to make sure that the
public gets the relevant information in a timely manner. The media’s inaction
during the election campaign, its inability to impose an election debate on the
party leaders, demonstrates a profound failure.
The ongoing fight between
Israel HaYom and Yediot Aharonot, with the former supporting the prime minister
and the latter doing everything possible to prevent his reelection, even to the
extent of aiding the Bayit Yehudi party, contributed very little to the quality
of the election campaign.
Instead of providing facts, the media in its
shallow ways concentrated on providing headlines, which were more often cheap
But let us end with an optimistic note. When comparing the
present election campaign to past ones, such as the 1996 runoff between Shimon
Peres and Netanyahu, we can assuredly say that media pluralism has led to a
campaign which was much more varied and fair.
Who knows, maybe next time
the media will even contribute quality to our democratic process?
are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,