PM seeks to influence media map with communications portfolio in Likud

According to Likud sources, Netanyahu has insisted that the next communications minister have significant powers anchored in coalition agreements.

April 29, 2015 19:40
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu


Coalition partners will have to commit to backing any reforms the next communication minister proposes, according to an article Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed for in the agreements on Wednesday.

“The government will lead comprehensive reforms in the media market,” the clause in agreements signed with Kulanu and United Torah Judaism Wednesday evening reads.

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“The factions joining the coalition commit to supporting these reforms. Furthermore, the coalition factions and their members will not support bills relating to the media without the communications minister’s authorization.

Coalition factions and their members will oppose any initiative and/or proposal relating to the media that the communications minister opposes.”

According to Likud sources, Netanyahu insisted that the next communications minister have significant powers anchored in coalition agreements, allowing him to make changes without opposition from within the coalition.

Netanyahu is considering remaining communications minister, a position he has held in addition to the premiership since November, when Gilad Erdan left it for the Interior Ministry. MK Ophir Akunis (Likud), a close ally of the prime minister’s, is also a likely candidate for the position.

The article in question is likely a measure meant to prevent the “Israel Hayom bill,” meant to shutter the pro-Netanyahu paper with the highest circulation in Israel, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The legislation would not allow newspapers that fit certain conditions, which only Israel Hayom currently matches, to be distributed for free.

The “Israel Hayom bill,” proposed by then-Labor MK Eitan Cabel, passed a preliminary reading in the last Knesset, with support from expected coalition partners Yisrael Beytenu and some of Bayit Yehudi, and Netanyahu took steps to dissolve the Knesset within weeks. Some in the political arena drew a connection between the two events, pointing to the media war between the more leftwing Yediot Aharonot and Israel Hayom during the election season.

Cabel wrote in response to a Channel 10 report about the Likud demanding that “since the Versailles deal there hasn’t been a capitulation like the one the new government partners are being asked to sign.”

“Why stop at Israel Hayom?” Cabel asked. “At this opportunity, they should also have an article saying that ‘all hail Caesar’ should be added after Netanyahu’s name... and that they all stand when the emperor enters the room, and the Knesset only be dissolved according to the emperor’s whims.”

There are other reforms in the media that the next communications minister will have to address, including the one in the Israel Broadcast Authority, which began last year, and splitting Channel 2, which is run by two production companies, into two channels, which Erdan proposed but did not move past the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The minister will also have to decide what to do with the beleaguered Channel 10, which has been in danger of closing several times in recent years.

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