Gideon Sa'ar (L) and his wife, Channel 1 newscaster Geula Even..
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was determined to do away with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation before he went to China, he is reportedly doubly determined now that the IBC has appointed Geula Even-Sa’ar, the wife of his nemesis, former minister Gideon Sa’ar, as its chief news anchor.
Hebrew language media have described the move as “poking a finger in Netanyahu’s eye,” while people close to the prime minister called her appointment “a childish demonstration of defiance.”
Ha’aretz cartoonist Amos Biderman drew a worried-looking Netanyahu trying to revive his wife, Sara, after she fainted at the sight of Even-Sa’ar’s face dominating a large television screen with an announcement in large type declaring “The News with Geula Even- Sa’ar.”
On learning of Even-Sa’ar’s appointment, Netanyahu reportedly called for the dismissal of IBC chairman Gil Omer and CEO Ehud Koblentz.
IBC lost no time to post a follow-up announcement to demonstrate its confidence that it would begin operating as scheduled at the end of April, issuing a press release highlighting two of the programs to be included in its first season: an Israeli version of Carpool Karaoke and Hamechola (The Container) which will feature a broad spectrum of local culture.
Meanwhile, at a Tuesday press conference held by The Marker, the economics publication of Ha’aretz, Kahlon announced that the IBC would be launched on April 30 as legislated and oversight legislation ensuring that all electronic media would be under supervision would be passed. Everything else reported alleging rifts between him and Netanyahu over the IBC and the Israel Broadcasting Authority was simply “spin,” said Kahlon.
Nonetheless, there were reports from various quarters that Netanyahu had asked his people to take a tougher stance with Kahlon, and that he is determined to close down the IBC and rehabilitate the IBA.
Hundreds of IBA employees demonstrated outside Histadrut headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning, blocking traffic along Arlozorov Street. Some carried placards or wore T-shirts on which were printed “Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn, you sold us out.”
Nissenkorn is currently under a lot of pressure from unions in large state companies, because if the IBA is closed down it would sound alarms among employees of the Israel Electric Corporation, whose salaries are much higher than those earned by employees of the IBA.
Among the demonstrators outside the Histadrut building was Idit Ben Eliahu, a veteran television news director and a single mother, who was celebrating her 48th birthday. She is one of several single mothers at the IBA who said that none of them was accepted by the IBC.
She had gone for several interviews, and despite her experience and devotion to duty, she had not been accepted, and as far as she knew nor had any of the other single mothers. She had no idea what she would do if the IBA is closed. She is feeling a mix of fear and anger, she said.
Israel Prize laureate Yaakov Ahimeir, considered to be the elder statesman of the IBA, will transfer to the IBC in the event that it does go to air – but he demonstrated together with colleagues outside the Histadrut building, calling on Netanyahu and Kahlon to reach a compromise.
Channel 1 economic reporter Oded Shahar said at the demonstration that even those people from the IBA who were hired by the IBC are being given much lower salaries than they earn now, and that this is humiliating.
Throughout the day, almost every program on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet carried interviews with IBA staff members, reports on the crisis or comments by broadcasters and politicians.
Several people suggested that the best solution would be a merger between the IBC and IBA, but others said this would create new difficulties: people have already been hired by the IBC and would expect to keep these positions, while IBA staffers who have served in these positions for years have the experience and the know-how to continue in them.
State Comptroller reports have for years highlighted the IBA wage structure, by which the livelihood of employees was more dependent on overtime earnings rather than on their basic wage, which was extremely low. However, pensions are calculated in accordance with the basic wage and not by overtime, which means that people in their fifties will receive NIS 2,000 per month and less after working for more than 25 years at the IBA.
Likud MK Oren Hazan was asked on Reshet Bet whether Geula Even- Sa’ar should be permitted to broadcast, given the status of her husband.
Hazan pointed out that Gideon Sa’ar had not yet returned to politics and said he is hopeful that a viable solution could be found to the broadcasting crisis.