The Israel Broadcasting Authority has been running a self-advertising campaign
stating that “We have programs for you at the IBA. Listen to Kol Yisrael, watch
TV Channel 1.
The public broadcasting is yours and is for you.” Is there
truth in this advertising? The IBA has undergone significant changes during the
past two years. Dr. Amir Gilat has been chairman since July 18, 2010. The new
plenum of the IBA was installed over a year ago, on March 13, 2011. Miki Miro is
acting head of Kol Yisrael since July 2011 and permanent head since February 6,
2012. Yoni Ben-Menachem has been the executive director and chief editor of the
IBA since September 18, 2011. Both secured their positions only after legal
battles initiated by various journalists’ unions and others to prevent their
Additional milestones achieved during this period include a
new IBA law, ratified by the Knesset on March 21 this year, that redefines the
ethos of the IBA. It mandates that the IBA must strengthen and enhance the
Zionist identity of the state and, for example, reflect the struggle for
It should reflect all parts of Israeli society, strengthen
ties with Judaism, Jewish heritage and values and enhance the public’s knowledge
of the Hebrew language in accordance with the guidance of the Israeli Academy
for the Hebrew Language.
Our parliament has defined a Zionist-oriented
IBA law, which is in accord with democratic principles of equality and
pluralism, but does the IBA abide by it? Is the public broadcasting really
“yours”? At times, it would seem that the IBA is more “of the journalists, by
the journalists and for the journalists.” Nowadays, they have complete freedom
to express their opinion on anything. The IBA, it seems, furthers more a freedom
of the press than a freedom of speech.
Air time is limited and, if most
of the philosophizing, admonishing, political and cultural opinion is provided
by employees of the IBA, does the IBA truly reflect all parts of Israeli
society? Miro, realizing this problem, tried to limit the expression of personal
opinions by some of the IBA’s stars. In fact, he abolished the personal column
features, relegated to journalists only on the Yoman Kol Yisrael noon program on
But his efforts were met by stiff opposition. He was severely
criticized for attempting to stop people such as Arieh Golan and Keren Neubach
giving their personal opinions on air. As a compromise, he agreed that they are
allowed to ask questions but not to make statements, but before long things
reverted to the previous practice.
Golan continues informing us of his
personal opinion on his 7 a.m. radio program. For example, on Jerusalem Day,
Golan said: “Here is a sentence written by the Swedish author, Nobel Prize
laureate Selma Lagerlaf after visiting the city: ‘Here, envy lingers at night,
here the dreamer is suspicious of the miracle maker, here the believer wars
against the atheist, here there is no mercy, here they hate everyone in honor of
the lord,’” and added, “well, ok, this was written a very long time ago, in the
Golan could not bring himself to rejoice or at least leave
his listeners with a good feeling on this historic day. His respect for the law
which demands that the IBA reflect Israel’s struggle for existence seems to be
Another painful topic is the Hebrew language. English
reigns, and not only in the advertisements. Even respected journalists such as
Yaakov Achimeir use English words such as “primaries” and “promo.” No wonder
that some of the other IBA journalists routinely use English terminology,
especially when dealing with sports. Terms such as “debate” or “wishful
thinking” are but some examples of the daily abuse of Hebrew. Yet the IBA has
done nothing in the past years to uphold the law.
Not all is dark. TV
programming, especially of documentaries, has changed, leaning more toward
Zionism. Perhaps the best example is the documentary “Ben Zion” on the life of
Professor Benzion Netanyahu, father of Yoni Netanyahu, who fell in action in the
Entebbe rescue, and father of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Dr. Iddo
The film, which was presented for the first time this past
Monday, the 30th day after Prof. Netanyahu’s death, at the Begin Center,
explores the life of one of the great Zionists who helped establish the state in
the past century.
Radio programming is also changing. The IBA TV
prime-time news has been shifted to 7:52 p.m., bringing with it also changes in
the evening radio programs.
The 7 p.m. Reshet Bet program on foreign
affairs has been rescheduled and instead we have various public service programs
that deal with social values issues, such as health. Yet these changes are at
best incremental as they do not create a new paradigm of pluralism. Minority
groups remain under-represented both in content and as journalists.
Negbi remains the sole legal commentator of the IBA. Programs seem to “belong”
to certain persons for years, even though they are not permanent employees of
the IBA. These include Judy Nir-Moses-Shalom’s (wife of Minister Silvan Shalom)
program Fridays at 11 a.m.; former MK Geula Cohen’s and author Eli Amir’s
program on Thursdays at 7 p.m.; the Friday afternoon program of Yaron Enosh,
that of Shlomo Nitzan for the past 20 years or so, the Arab-oriented program of
former Labor minister Ra’anan Cohen, and more.
Creating change is not
simple, especially when it means moving people who have been in their positions
for years. But openings exist. For example, Yaron Dekel left the IBA to become
the head of the army radio station. As a result there is an opening for a new
anchor for Kol Yisrael’s Hakol Dibburim program, which airs weekdays from 10
a.m. to noon.
One might hope that the IBA would try to take someone who
does not belong to the post-Zionist liberal camp, which receives ample airtime
through the likes of Mr. Golan, Ms. Neubach, Ms.
Davidov, Mr. Enosh, Mr.
Negbi and others.
For example, they might take Ms. Emily Amrousi, former
spokesperson of the Yesha council and current Israel Hayom columnist, to provide
some balance. Or Yedidya Meir of Yediot Aharonot, who also has had ample
experience as an anchor at the Kol Chai and Galatz radio stations.
all, the IBA’s record during the past few years is mixed.
There have been
some positive changes and certainly the present leadership of the IBA is much
more open and receptive to the public and its desires. Yet the proof of media
pudding is in the viewing and listening. At present, there is still much to be
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of
Israel’s Media Watch.