Military broadcasting services exist in many countries, and all share the common
dilemma of attempting to serve military interests without losing credibility
with an audience accustomed to civilian broadcasting.
In the UK, there is
the British Forces News, with three radio networks broadcasting, at present, to
23 countries and two television channels with satellite broadcasting to 17
The United States American Forces Network produces 10 streams,
of which seven are music-based, two are sports-based, and one is a general
news/talk/sports channel broadcasting all over the world via 800 stations
throughout the time zones. Canada has the Canadian Forces Radio and
Then there’s Israel’s Galei Tzahal (army radio), or Galatz as
it’s commonly known, which has its own special problems.
Galatz was a
continuation of the pre-state underground Hagana transmissions and began
broadcasting in September 1950. Only during the 1973 Yom Kippur war did it
broaden to a full 24-hour daily schedule.
In 1993 Galei Tzahal added a
“light” channel, Galgalatz, which broadcasts music interspersed with traffic
reports. Its activity was first regulated by law in 1956, and it was placed
under the supervision of its competitor, the civilian Israel Broadcasting
Paragraph 48 of the IBA Law establishes that the IBA
supervises Galatz’s “non-military programming.” At the time, our legislators did
not realize that the army station would become the competitor of the IBA’s
Reshet Bet radio station.
They also did not anticipate that almost 50
years later, the law still has not been implemented fully for the IBA never
carried out its obligation to fix a set of supervision guidelines.
net result is that there is no real or effective public overview of the army
radio station, which is very much present in civilian life.
to its well-funded foreign counterparts, Galatz has assumed an almost dominant
position over Israel’s entertainment and “infotainment” industry. It annually
recruits almost 40 soldiers who serve in the station for three years and carry
out various journalistic duties. After finishing their army duty, many of these
soldiers go out to the infotainment market and become its leaders. Galatz is
Israel’s most prestigious and influential school of journalism.
there be no mistake – the station is not run by soldiers.
programs are presented by civilian professionals, “celebs” who reportedly
receive high salaries (Galatz refuses to reveal what they are) and who create
the tone and content of all that is broadcast on Galatz. The soldiers are
effectively cheap labor, carrying out the whims and needs of the “stars” of the
station, who host the main talk shows and news roundups.
Over the years,
the military content of the station’s broadcasts has dwindled. It is very
difficult to distinguish it from Reshet Bet. On the other hand it is rather easy
to note the true atmosphere at the channel, which is dominated by secular,
left-of-center Ashkenazi ideologues.
The morning programming starts with
Micha Friedman, who although a news anchor finds it difficult to keep his
audience in the dark about his political inclinations. It continues with Razi
Barkai, who last year, in an open vote held by Israel’s Media Watch, was elected
by the public as the most irritating radio personality. It continues with the
only balanced radio program, “The Last Word,” pitting Left versus Right. But at
noon, the public has the honor of hearing Yael Dan for two hours. She does not
even attempt to provide the public with a semblance of neutrality.
is no pluralism in a structure which should represent the army of all the
Is this in the army’s best interests? Not if you ask the people
of the MyIsrael (Yisrael Sheli) Facebook group. In a recent heated debate at the
Knesset’s economic committee, Yisrael Sheli brought reserve officers who
complained bitterly that when they had a bit of spare time and upon coming home
from the Second Lebanon War, they heard on Galatz that the justification of
their war was questionable. The station found it necessary to interview some of
Israel’s Palestinian and Arab enemies, instead of attempting to raise the morale
of the armed forces in battle.
Razi Barkai’s view is that “the station is
not the deodorant of the army.”
Over the years, many people, from both
the Left and Right, questioned the justification for an army radio station.
There is an inherent contradiction between journalism, which demands full
freedom of opinion and open access to information, and the military, which
almost by definition must have secrets and cannot bow to journalistic standards.
There is also a serious problem with the station’s recruitment of
Only non-combatant soldiers are allowed to serve in the
This discriminates against the aspiring journalist who is also
idealistic, healthy and strong enough to serve in a combat unit. That soldier
cannot enter Israel’s most prestigious school of journalism.
In fact, the
standard makeup of the recruits is largely Ashkenazi, comes from the
geographical center of Israel (“Shenkin Street, Tel Aviv”) and is
The periphery, the Orthodox and minorities are underrepresented
at the station.
All this paints a bleak picture for incoming station
commander Yaron Dekel, whose appointment was announced earlier this week. Dekel
is a professional journalist. He started his career at Galatz, has an MA in
Communications and Political Science (summa cum laude) from Bar Ilan University
and took advanced courses at the universities of Minnesota and Oxford. For the
past 20 years he has been employed in various senior positions at the
He has the opportunity to create real change at the army station. It
needs public oversight and an independent ethics commissioner. Will Dekel have
the foresight and leadership to accept this? The “stars” should be abolished;
the station belongs to the army and the soldiers, not to the professionals who
use it to line their pockets and further their own agenda.
process needs a revolution. Instead of barring combat soldiers from the station
they should be encouraged to join – after all, they understand the army better
than noncombatants. Just as in other professional army units, Galatz should
condition acceptance by demanding first one to two years of combat duty and only
then three years in the station, for part of which time they would receive a
Galatz should stay away from the temptation to demand advertising
to cover its budget.
A public radio station should not provide unfair
competition to the private sector, not to mention the fact that mandatory
service for soldiers should not include economic activity of any
The truth is that Galatz today is a luxury that Israel can do
without. There is nothing about Galatz that cannot be provided by the private
Israel does not need two national public radio
But the influence of Galatz’s graduates is so strong that even
Defense Minister Ehud Barak cannot abolish the station. At the least, it should
be Zionist, pro-Army, pluralistic, ethical and under public
The writers are respectively the vice chairman and chairman of
Israel’s Media Watch, www.imw.org.il.