Media Comment: Does the media care about its public?
Over 200 persons from both sides of the Green Line convened at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Hotel and were presented with material.
Israel press credentials Photo: Courtesy
This past Monday, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza,
better known as the YESHA Council, conducted a full day’s Media and Public
Over 200 persons from both sides of the Green Line
convened at Jerusalem’s Leonardo Hotel and were presented with material, written
and digital, as well as new and soon-to-be-viral video clips.
was upbeat despite the concern over the looming crisis in connection with the
Ulpana neighborhood’s evacuation.
Back in October 2008, Peace Now’s Yariv
Oppenheimer proclaimed, following a YESHA Council initiative to bring media
personalities and opinion makers across the Green Line to acquaint themselves
with the reality on the ground, that “I don’t feel that any great breakthrough
in public opinion was achieved.” Some four years later, the situation has
Oppenheimer recently expressed Peace Now’s alarm
in an advert which read: “Without us realizing what has happened, the Right has
effected true revolution in public opinion on the issue of the territories.
Recently, they have established a well-oiled public information unit that is
active on several fronts.”
THERE IS no doubt that the media’s treatment
of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is an ongoing issue of
contention. Charges of leftwing bias are frequently heard. The critical
reactions from the audience to the presentations of Hilik Sharir, formerly
Ma’ariv’s deputy editor and currently deputy director for content programming at
Channel 2 News, and Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s Arab Affairs correspondent, who
ascended the speaker’s platform at the conference were clear expressions of
their frustrations. Media conduct and ethics continues to remain a bone of
The fact though, that mainstream media “stars” felt
comfortable and unconcerned in lending their names to such a conference is
newsworthy of itself. Newsworthy, too, was the appearance of Deputy Foreign
Minister MK Danny Ayalon, who delivered a 40-minute talk and a video conveying
regards from Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein.
Sharon media advisor Arnon Pearlman was also a speaker. Newsworthy, but not
reported. Except for Arutz 7’s website.
Sharir defended his news output,
his correspondents and his editorial calls. Sharir’s version is that all
decisions regarding the show’s line-up stem from professional
That the media can be prejudicial and unethical is no
secret and is not just a reflection of what happens in Israel. Peter Sissons, a
20-year veteran BBC broadcaster and anchor of news and current affairs programs,
confessed in January 22, 2011, that the BBC’s “very DNA, is a way of thinking
that is firmly of the Left.” He further asserted that “‘bias is too blunt a word
to describe the subtleties of the pervading culture. The better word is a
‘mindset.’” Sissons added, in a remarkable admission, “I lost count of the
number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a
copy of ‘The Guardian’ and told ‘it’s all in there.’” If this is the inside
scoop from a very high-level insider, in such a prestigious – and
state-sponsored – media organization, then perhaps the protestations of
innocence by our local directors and editors should be taken with a grain of
Sharir was candid, however, in admitting less-than-perfect
standards. Once, he informed participants, he produced a program that included a
video clip from one of the extreme leftist groups opposed to Jews residing in
Judea and Samaria, which aired before the Sabbath had ended. This circumvented
the need to broadcast a response, as those involved observed the Sabbath and
couldn’t be interviewed.
He also acknowledged that the panels on programs
broadcast on the Sabbath were not all balanced since it was difficult to include
Israelis whose political viewpoint supported and represented the Jewish
settlements of Judea and Samaria and their ideology.
At question time, he
was asked about two of his reporters, who were trained by the Agenda Group, a
NGO organization whose director, journalist Anat Saragusti, was formerly
employed at HaOlam HaZeh, Uri Avneri’s extreme-left weekly.
promotes itself as a Center for Strategic Communications, a “unique
not-for-profit center working to reprioritize and reframe social change issues
within the Israeli public debate and media.”
This includes the goal of
achieving a “long-term and strategic shift in the media’s approach to key social
change issues... to impact the public agenda and the policy-making processes...
in the media arena in planned and pro-active ways.”
was, “They are professional.”
In Sharir’s world, left-wing reporters do
not have any biases. Sharir had no compunctions about employing
minority-representing journalists (one is Ethiopian; the other an Arab) even
though their professional credentials are highly partisan and
He claimed that there is a lack of religious
candidates applying, as he sits on the acceptance committee, and said it was a
shame that there is a reversal of a good trend. We would beg to disagree, since
we can easily think of at least half a dozen names of excellent reporters who
could do the job.
Sharir also pointed out that the Second Authority of
Television and Radio ombudsman shared responsibility for oversight and dealing
Sharir did not mention the broad lack of respect of his
news program for the ombudsman’s decisions and recommendations.
journalist who wasn’t there had made his opinion known the previous week in
According to Kalman Liebskind, the Israeli media is Israel’s
biggest enemy. Channels 2 and 10, Army Radio and the IBA’s Kol Yisrael are
“agenda biased,” according to Liebskind. “If the facts are not facts,” Liebskind
wrote, “our entire democratic process is damaged. There’s no
He also pointed out a self-fulfilling prophecy characteristic
of the media. On the one hand, they claim that the state is suffering “because
the world is watching what we do here.” But who, if not the media, is providing
the world with information that is many times incorrect, imbalanced or simply
wrong? The four main news diary presenters at Army Radio received special
notice: “If Reno Tzror is a leftist, and Razi Barkai is a leftist, and Yael Dan
is Left, and Micha Friedman is Left – is there not anyone else? Does that seem
reasonable? Can current events be treated only by such broadcasters?” Israel’s
public has made real progress in the past 20 years. It has become media savvy
and it no longer accepts the media’s control and lack of accountability and
fairness. It demands that the media reflect the Zionist ethos of the Jewish
The media has had no choice in recent years but to be more
attentive to its public. However, its progress has been slow and sadly, colored
with intellectual dishonesty. The bottom line of this week’s Yesha Council’s
conference is that with hard work and good will there is good reason to believe
that even our mainstream media will finally come to its senses.
authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,