The Yom Kippur of Netflix?

While TV stations in Israel must legally stop broadcasting, the digital age has changed the landscape.

September 27, 2017 20:05
2 minute read.
Netflix logo

Netflix logo. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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It’s a time-honored tradition: For one day each year, TV screens across Israel go black. On Yom Kippur, by law, television and radio stations fall silent on the holiday, the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar.

But it is, after all, 2017, and the content Israelis watch is more and more likely to be on-demand shows and movies than it is live TV. But will the changing landscape affect what’s available this year on Yom Kippur? Yes and no.

The current law – a regulation enacted by the Communications Ministry – explicitly blocks TV and radio broadcasts from airing during the 25-hours of Yom Kippur (most stop a few hours in advance). Yes and HOT, the two largest providers in Israel, go dark every year. So will newer players Partner and Cellcom, despite not being subject to the regulation.

Access to international channels, including BBC, Fox News and MTV, is still available. But all four providers will be shutting down access to their video-on-demand libraries throughout the holiday – despite the fact that they likely aren’t legally required to. All four have said their streaming applications for phones and tablets will also go black.

Partner and Cellcom are both Internet-based services, and therefore are not subject to the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council regulations. However, they have chosen, independently, to close access to VOD for Yom Kippur.

While Yes and HOT are subject to the regulations, the statute, which has been around for decades, obviously makes no mention of VOD services. The extensive libraries of on-demand, accessible content have been around in Israel for just over a decade.

In an interview earlier this week with Haaretz, Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, chairwoman of the Broadcasting Council, said if HOT or Yes were to request the legal right to open VOD access on Yom Kippur, she would immediately convene the council to discuss the issue. The 13 members of the council include representatives of several government ministries as well as industry figures.

But, despite rumors to the contrary, none of the four TV providers has expressed any intent to do so – at least not this year. While it may be legally acceptable, it is likely the companies have no interest in diving into such a sensitive topic and risking offending public sensibilities for just one day of the year.

But the rumors have still been swirling, prompting Communications Minister Ayoub Kara to issue a statement Wednesday.

“Yom Kippur for us in the Communications Ministry is the holiest of holies, and – just like the country has been doing for 70 years – we will continue this year to keep the status quo,” he said.

Kara said he spoke with Ben-Chai Segev, and “to my delight the council received my position and will act accordingly.”

So, for those not inclined to go the synagogue route, what TV avenues will be open? Firstly, all previously recorded content will be available, as will the international channels included in your TV package (but without Hebrew subtitles). Those who subscribed to Netflix through Partner will have full access on Yom Kippur, as of course will any subscribers to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video through their computers. There also exist no end of legal and illegal online streaming services with wide varieties of content.

And if none of that interests you, you can browse your DVD library, pick up a book, or even take a walk outside. It’s just 25 hours.

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