The media was a central player in these elections, for good and for bad. Some journalists, such as Yonit Levi, Amnon Abramovitch and Rina Mazliach of Channel 2 TV, truly believed the “Bibi must go” mantra; otherwise they would not have sacrificed their professionalism on the altar of propaganda.
It was only on Monday night that Abramovitch went overboard in citing the greatness of the Livni and Herzog in being able to agree to cancel the rotation between them.
Even after the results came out, Mazliach’s response was, “Well will Bibi now stop his vicious attacks on us?” A colleague of theirs, Amit Segal, tweeted: “elections 2015: The public against the elites and the media: that’s the whole story.” Erel Segal (no relation) wrote at the NRG website Tuesday, “These past three months we’ve witnessed a ‘Saison’ campaign of incitement and hunting, of unparalleled reviling... and my colleagues in the media preferred to close their eyes.”
An important element in the campaign was the reliance on pollsters. Their errors, however, were far beyond the accepted norm.
It would seem that the polling system has crashed and it can no longer be considered reliable. Too many people refuse to answer, and the polls get skewed by those who have an axe to grind. The media’s devout following of the polls should have been stopped years ago. But the polls this time around reflected the desire of the media to replace Netanyahu, so care and criticism were thrown to the wind.
In the past few months, we have documented time and again the various ethical breaches of our media, and undoubtedly, media bias typically favored the leftist, post-Zionist viewpoint. However, these past months have also witnessed some of the best of Israel’s media. All through the campaign, our radio and TV broadcasters made a noticeable effort to bring all views to the public. The morning radio shows were relatively balanced. Someone from the Right would be balanced from the Left and vice versa. The smaller parties, ranging from Meretz to Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid and the Joint Arab List, received ample representative air time.
The print media also fared well. On the one side there was Yediot Aharonot
with its anti-Netanyahu bias, but it was balanced by Israel Hayom
, which supported the prime minister. Haaretz
was partially balanced by Makor Rishon
The situation was vastly different 20 years ago. Back in 1996, the media, with one voice, supported Shimon Peres. Some TV shows were skewed 90 percent in his favor. The anchors were openly rooting for him. Israel Hayom
did not exist and Yediot Aharonot
had a monopoly on the Israeli media. The same occurred in the 1999 elections.
Something has happened during the past 20 years. Most notably, the call of the late journalist and Bayit Yehudi minister Uri Orbach, urging young people with a Zionist bent to join the media, has created a movement. Professional journalists such as Kalman Libeskind, Erel Segal, Amit Segal, Sivan Rahav-Meir and Emily Amrousy, all with kippot or scarves on their heads, do not hide their ideology. They do their jobs but do not bend over backwards to kowtow to the post-Zionist bon ton. Twenty years ago, Channel 2 TV proudly boasted that they had a national religious figurehead in Nissim Mishal, whose left-wing bias was well documented.
The media’s performance cannot be disassociated from the politicians. Some of them were very dissatisfied with the media. As reported by Globes, already back in July 2014, Netanyahu claimed that some television commentators “do not represent the people” and that “there is a monopoly on opinion.”
He also complained in January about the media’s coverage of his participation in the Paris gathering in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher deli terrorist attacks.
This continued throughout the campaign, reaching perhaps a crescendo with Netanyahu’s personal attack on Noni Mozes, publisher of Yediot, and the prime minister’s refusal to be interviewed by Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, who has been pursuing the prime minister and his wife for quite some time.
Minister Naftali Bennett also joined the fray. Only a week ago, he commented on Channel 10 about the media’s strong desire to replace Netanyahu. When Makor Rishon
was saved by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Bennett, who at that time was a subject of adulation by Yediot
for his stand against Israel Hayom
, was troubled, worrying that this would turn also Makor Rishon
against him. On January 24, on Channel 10’s Hamate Hamerkazi
TV program, Bennett responded to moderator Nadav Peri, saying: “You have crossed all borders, the media in general, and this channel... systematically only highlights my candidate in the 94th slot... show me once when you broadcast or attacked someone from the Left.”
It is easy to attack the media but much more difficult to do something about it. Consider the Bayit Yehudi Party and its predecessor the Mafdal – the National Religious Party.
Not once in these past years has it demanded the Communications Ministry portfolio as part of a coalition agreement. Last summer, Likud minister Gilad Erdan steamrolled a law through the Knesset which turns the Israel Broadcasting Authority into the “Public Broadcasting Corporation.” We tried to prevent his law from turning the authority into a post-Zionist one but only Minister Orbach assisted. The other Bayit Yehudi Knesset representatives were hardly present during the committee deliberations and attempts to convince them to take a more active role were not successful.
Both Bennett and the Likud complain about bias on Channel 10, but they had ample time to change Israel’s media map.
Channel 10 should have been closed down years ago due to its hefty debt of over a billion shekels to the Israeli public. But time and time again, it was the Likud that saved the channel. There are at least two TV channels that would jump at the chance to broadcast nationally in Israel: Channel I24 and Channel 20. The Second TV and Radio Authority was appointed by the Likud during these past six years.
Why hasn’t the authority increased pluralism in Israel and provided us with a few more channels? Channel 2’s News Corporation is public, supervised by a public commission. The open bias which leaves a political pundit such as Amnon Abramovitch on the job for years without end, without balancing him, should have been eliminated and could have been eliminated. The only thing missing was leadership and will. But neither the Likud nor Bennett and Bayit Yehudi would have anything to do with this.
The bottom line is that even with the considerable improvement in the media’s performance, specifically in allowing greater pluralism of voices to be heard, the “old guard” of post-Zionist media people is still entrenched in central positions. They create havoc with Israeli public opinion and the perception of Israel abroad. The Likud, and especially the Bayit Yehudi, should realize that defending Israel from its enemies starts at home. Use your empowerment to do away with the current unprofessional and damaging parts of the media.The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).