A broadcasting room at Israel Radio.
(photo credit: COURTESY IBA)
Conventional wisdom says you don’t throw out something old before you have something new to replace it, President Reuven Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday morning, following Tuesday’s abrupt shutdown of Mabat News, which effectively meant the closure of Channel 1.
Other than news bulletins, Israel Radio concluded its broadcasts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, marking the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s demise. It also made way for the birth – after eight bouts of false labor – of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation and the Israel News Corporation, which are scheduled to go on air on Monday, leaving a three-day public broadcasting hiatus.
Rivlin said when he was born, Hemda Faigenbaum-Zinder, the first Hebrew-language broadcaster, had already been on Israel Radio – then the Palestine Broadcasting Service – for almost four years.
PBS was established in March 1936 and subsequently became the Voice of Jerusalem, and after that, the Voice of Israel.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, didn’t like the concept of public broadcasting, according to Rivlin, and instead wanted state broadcasting he could control.
After learning that would not happen, he established Army Radio, initially to broadcast emergency notices, but eventually evolving into a full-fledged radio service.
A series of governments tried to control the IBA, but failed, said Rivlin, who praised both Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet and Channel 1 as ideal public broadcasting services, for reaching a broad demographic cross-section with a wide variety of cultural programs catered to different tastes.
At the same time, it doesn’t matter who broadcasts, he said. “What matters is what they broadcast.”
Rivlin, a former communications minister, has little patience for commercial television. It is lacking in values, he explained, and features populist programs, such as reality show Big Brother, rather than ones with educational value, such as 1981’s Pillar of Fire, one of the epic documentary productions of Channel 1.
Later in the day, Rivlin went to the studios of Israel Radio in the Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood, to voice his appreciation for the quality contributions made to public broadcasting by Reshet Bet and Channel 1.
In an interview with Esti Perez he said: “How could I not come on such a day of uncertainty to thank you?” The president echoed the emotions of many IBA staffers when he called the situation heart-breaking. “Without public broadcasting there is no democracy,” he said. “Without public broadcasting there is no State of Israel.”
Preferring to look forward rather than back, Rivlin said: “I have come to praise the IBA, not to weep at its funeral.” Referring to the previous evening’s Mabat finale, however, he said what had been done “was not right. You deserved a more respectable farewell.”
He told Perez to look to the future without fear and recalled voting against canceling the broadcasting levy when he was in the Knesset, because he saw in it the relationship between the broadcasters and the public rather than with the politicians.
Rivlin said it was a mistake to disband the IBA and would have preferred to have implemented reforms that were previously agreed to. But now that such an option no longer existed, he expressed hope that the new public broadcasting entity would be built into something great.
“There were people who wanted to get rid of the old without building something new. They wanted something doctrinaire,” Rivlin said. He tried to brush aside Perez’s contention – as well as that of others earlier in the day – that even those IBA people who are going to be part of IBC will not enjoy the same status, the same respect or the same salary which they had at the IBA.
Nonetheless, when the interview was over, Rivlin removed his glasses and wiped a tear from his eye, which Perez duly reported
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