Is IBA trying to break the spirit of Keren Neubach?

Comment: Firing radio host would be tantamount to a declaration of war with social welfare and women’s organizations,

July 23, 2012 05:50
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Press Card 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Fans and colleagues of Israel Radio’s Keren Neubach say the powers that be at the Israel Broadcasting Authority are trying to break her spirit by reducing her influence and saddling her with professional burdens that she would rather not have.

A tendency to aggression and left-wing positions annoy some of the listeners of Neubach’s daily Seder Hayom (“Agenda”) program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet.

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But whether she irritates or delights, both her admirers and detractors agree that there is no doubt that she is on the side of the underdog.

Neubach, like her colleague Peerli Shahar, goes to bat for those defenseless individuals who are unable to stand by themselves against Israeli bureaucracy and cannot afford to pay a lawyer to do it for them.

The difference is that Shahar somehow manages not to offend the establishment, whereas Neubach is a perpetual thorn in its side, never hesitating to throw a barb when she feels it’s justified.

Another Shahar, Oded Shahar, who for a long time was the economics reporter on the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1, but who now mainly focuses on hosting the controversial Politica program, and who occasionally appears as a guest on Neubach’s morning radio show, has also managed to keep himself out of trouble.

The word is out in the corridors of the IBA that veteran broadcasters had better watch their backs because management is out to get them.

How much of this is true and how much is rumor is hard to say, because there are veterans such as Yaakov Ahimeir and Shmuel Shay who are both well past retirement age, who continue to broadcast regularly, and there are younger people such as Ynon Magal, who, four-and-ahalf years ago, was wooed away from Channel 10 to become the co-anchor of Mabat News with Merav Miller, following the retirement of Haim Yavin.

Why two people were needed on a regular basis at the expense of the public purse is a question that remains open, although neither of the two is presenting Mabat any more. Miller’s place has been taken by the classically beautiful and professionally competent Michal Rabinovich, who has been partnered with different male colleagues who don’t seem terribly comfortable in the job. Nor does she seem nearly as self-confident and authoritative as she is when broadcasting alone. Miller is on maternity leave and Magal has resigned. The two discovered through the print media that they were targets for dismissal. Under the law, Miller could not be fired, but Magal could. He decided to jump before he was pushed. Neubach has had much longer tenure at the IBA, and so far, has managed to resist efforts to break her spirit.

For several months she was the anchor of Mabat Sheni (“Second Look”), but she was dropped toward the end of the year on grounds that she was not telegenic.

She was replaced by Noa Barak. Long before she was a program host or anchor, Neubach was a political reporter appearing on screen almost daily. Nobody suggested then that she was not sufficiently telegenic.

Incidentally, Itai Landsberg, the editor of Mabat Sheni, is having his own problems with the IBA over his replacement as director of Channel 1’s documentary department.

Neubach has continued with her morning radio show, but not on a daily basis.

Her spot is taken by someone else at least once a week.

This week, her emotional stamina was tested yet again when a co-anchor was forced on her. Menachem Ben, a columnist whose writings frequently appear in Ma’ariv, will for the time being broadcast with her only on Sundays. There is no chemistry between the two, but the reason given by the IBA for forcing Ben on Neubach was to give the program more balance. According to a representative of the IBA Spokesman’s Department, listeners had complained that Neubach was too one-sided in her views. How the new arrangement will pan out is anyone’s guess.

Neubach has considerable public opinion and quite a few Knesset members on her side, and if the IBA does eventually fire her, it will be tantamount to a declaration of war with women’s and social welfare organizations. Neubach, aside from fighting the battles of the weaker sectors of society, volunteers at the Center for Victims of Sexual Abuse, and is a divorcee, with two young children.

The IBA has been saying for some time that within the framework of its reforms, it wants to find new faces and voices.

Some of these have been appearing recently on Israel Radio and Channel 1, and in the perceptions of some listeners and viewers the newcomers are still learning on the job, and in so doing are lowering the standards of public broadcasting.

In other IBA developments, even veteran broadcasters have been asked to cut short interviewees who speak out against the government. This was confirmed by both a radio journalist and a television journalist who each spoke to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity.

“The IBA is falling apart,” said the television journalist.

But an announcement released on Sunday by the IBA indicates that the opposite may be true and that the long-awaited reforms are well on the way to implementation.

Aside from the millions of shekels invested in advanced technological equipment for coverage of the Olympics Games, which open this Friday in London, the IBA on Sunday reached an agreement whereby the first phase of the transfer of its Tel Aviv operations to Lod would be completed by Rosh Hashana.

The IBA will build something in the nature of a communications city in Lod, but its initial operations will be out of the old Lod Municipal Building that has been made available by Mayor Meir Nitzan who met on Sunday with IBA director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem, head of the implementation of the reforms Zelig Rabinovitch, the IBA’s deputy head of technology Rafi Yehoshua and the team responsible for the sale and/or transfer of IBA properties.

Ben-Menachem said that he was pleased that all the obstacles related to the move had been cleared and that headway could now be made.

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