fmr minister of Welfare and Social Affairs Isaac Herzog 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Labor Party faction chairman Isaac Herzog has set up a Knesset lobby to protect
the interests of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, for which he was responsible
when he served as welfare and social services minister.
Herzog formed the
lobby in response to a report in Wednesday’s Yediot Aharonot that Communications
Minister Gilad Erdan, who currently holds ministerial responsibility for the
IBA, was considering a number of options to solve the problems of the
financially strapped public broadcasting service. One of those options,
according to the report, is to close down the existing enterprise and start
again from scratch with a new operating format and a greatly reduced
According to the report, Erdan has consulted with senior figures
in the television industry, who have suggested a reexamination of the conditions
under which the Finance Ministry opted to make funds available for implementing
There has been talk of such reforms for more than three
decades. Every so often there have been reports in the media, usually based on
IBA press releases, that reforms are on the verge of implementation, that IBA
negotiations with the trade unions and the Finance Ministry have resulted in
signed agreements, and that several hundred IBA employees will be dismissed
within the framework of the reforms, but with severance pay and favorable
At last count, 700 employees were waiting for the axe to
fall. Some of them have been waiting in limbo for the best part of 30
The cost of implementing the reforms, according to the report, is
NIS 700 million.
Herzog said it was vital to the country’s interests to
maintain a public broadcasting network.
Based on his own experiences with
the IBA and the Finance Ministry, he said he wanted to find out what the
government’s intentions were toward the authority, and why the reforms had not
gone ahead in accordance with the signed agreements. He expressed concern that
if Erdan decided to go ahead with the plan to close down the IBA, there was a
strong possibility it would never reopen, and almost 2,000 people would be out
This latest development is yet another attempt to frighten
professional journalists into serving the interests of the government, he said,
charging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with having intended, for a number of
years, to close down the IBA.
Instead of shutting the authority down,
said the Labor faction chairman, it would be prudent to advance legislation that
would make the IBA entirely independent of whatever political administration was
According to Herzog, the prime minister and other ministers in
the government should remember that the journalists working at the IBA are
professionals, and not subcontractors hired to promote the policies of the
Public Diplomacy Ministry, nor should IBA journalists be dependent on the
goodwill of the government as an employer.
Herzog plans to hold a meeting
of his lobby next week.
The IBA declined to comment on the new threat it
Before the advent of commercial television and the profusion
of cable and satellite channels in the country, the IBA played a significant
role in the life of the nation. But over time, its ratings have plunged, and its
power and influence have diminished.
The Yediot story appeared a day
after i24, the new 24-hour international news channel that will be broadcasting
in three languages from Jaffa, released a sneak preview of its coverage.
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