(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Watching television is poised to become more expensive following the submission of a private members bill this week seeking to increase the TV license fee in 2008.
The private bill proposed by Meretz MK Haim Oron, who is also chairman of the Knesset lobby for public broadcasting, brings good news for the Israel Broadcasting Authority and bad news for owners of television receivers. Oron is seeking to reverse the license fee reduction reform, introduced by then Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and as such cancel the 5 percent reduction planned in 2008. If the bill will get passed the TV license fee would be increased year on year from 2008.
Isaac Herzog, the minister who is responsible for the IBA is expected to support the bill, when it is presented in the ministerial committee for the legislation of proposed bills. Expectations are that the proposed bill will be presented to the ministerial committee on Sunday.
It was back in 2003 when then finance minister Netanyahu decided to substantially reduce the NIS 515 television receiver license fee. The reform sought to reduce the fee by 15% in the first year, 10% in the second year and 5% per annum thereafter until the fee was reduced to zero.
However, the IBA is optimistic about the approval of the bill carrying the support of Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, who earlier this week said he would do everything possible to see the proposed changes of the IBA license fee be implemented. The IBA has traditionally encountered many problems in its dealings with the Finance Ministry, but Bar-On made it clear that his positive attitude derives from his respect for IBA chairman Moshe Gavish whom he regards as a very serious and competent individual. Because Gavish has spent so much time and energy in pushing for the changes, Bar-On is prepared to give him his backing, but acknowledged that putting the reforms into practice will not be easy.
Meanwhile, the on-going financial struggle between the IBA management and union representatives is threatening to affect hundreds of employees who could lose their jobs. An IBA spokesperson said that many were barely subsisting under eroded incomes. Payment of salaries has been delayed month over month in addition to the the cancellation of overtime and on-call payments, which have seriously cut into people's earnings.
In some cases they have had to choose between food and medications. In response to this critical situation, the IBA set up a special fund to help tide these people over until such time as an agreement is reached between management and union representatives.
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