MK Eitan Cabel pledges to fight any attempt to politicize or destroy public broadcasting

Due to the failure on the part of the government to implement the new public broadcasting law wrote Frej, the employees of the IBA itself have become victims of the state.

June 22, 2015 18:07
2 minute read.

IBA logo. (photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)

Labor Party MK Eitan Cabel, who is chairman of the Knesset Economics Committee, on Monday pledged to fight any attempt to politicize or destroy public broadcasting. Cabel was among the legislators who supported the drastic reforms to the Israel Broadcasting Authority that were proposed by Gilad Erdan during his term as communications minister and helped pass them into law when they were voted on a year ago.

But it was not Cabel’s intention to penalize IBA employees or to put an end to public broadcasting, he said. What he wanted was to remove all political pressures and influence from public broadcasting, and because he was familiar with the mismanagement of the IBA, he voted in favor of the establishment of a new, cost-efficient public broadcasting entity.

Referring to a meeting held on Sunday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (currently the custodian of the Communications Ministry), Cabel said that reports emanating from the meeting and published in the media were cause for concern.

He was very worried he said, as to how Netanyahu intends to handle the current IBA crisis.

As someone who has overseen public broadcasting and believes in its value, Cabel said that it should be strengthened and made completely independent of political interference. The big challenges, he said, are to keep politics out of the IBA and to stand up against anyone who attempts to bring about the demise of public broadcasting.

While conceding that major reforms were needed, Cabel said that such reforms had to be introduced in a sensible and sensitive manner.

Meretz MK Issawi Frej has written a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein requesting him to investigate the conduct of all government agencies that are in any way linked to or responsible for the IBA and its operations and to guarantee that funds are instantly transferred to the IBA to ensure that employees are properly remunerated for their work.

Due to the failure on the part of the government to implement the new public broadcasting law, wrote Frej, the employees of the IBA itself have become victims of the state and of hostile government policy.

Alluding to the IBA’s deficit, Frej blamed the government for deciding to abolish television and radio licensing fees; which this year, had they been collected, would have amounted to some NIS 400 million in IBA revenues. After depriving the IBA of income, the Finance Ministry now refuses to provide an alternative budget.

Under such circumstances, Frej declared, the IBA is in a state of collapse.

It has a debt of NIS 50 million.

It has been unable to pay suppliers and at present there are insufficient funds to pay wages.

Dr. Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a media expert and research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, said that the Public Broadcasting Law is part of an essential process, the implementation of which must not be stopped. The annual transfer of NIS 900 million by the Finance Ministry to the IBA does not come anywhere near what should be invested in public broadcasting, she said, largely due to years of inefficient management.

In Shwartz Altshuler’s opinion, the new Public Broadcasting Law is a good one, particularly because it distances public broadcasting from political meddling. She was hesitant about reopening the debate on public broadcasting, because she suspects it would pave the way for politicians to once again exert pressure.

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