(photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
In an 11th hour decision, the government and the Knesset on Monday approved a six-month extension for the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which was to have been terminated on March 31.
Following approval by the government, the Knesset voted to allow the IBA to continue broadcasting in its present format until September 30.
The reprieve was granted because of the inability of Ehud Koblentz, who had been tasked with establishing a public broadcasting service to replace the IBA, to meet the April 1 deadline.
Few of the criteria have been met for setting up the IBA’s replacement, to be known as the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, and no budgetary allocation has been made for programming.
It was decided early in the planning for the IBC that news and actuality programs would be outsourced to other media or to freelancers.
This decision was sharply criticized by Zionist Union MKs Shelly Yachimovich and Nachman Shai. Yachimovich, who had previously proposed a similar bill, said that however good the intentions may have been, whoever formulated such a bill was blind to its consequences. Notwithstanding the flaws in the way that the IBA is currently managed, she asserted, it is wrong to close down a working enterprise. To outsource news and actuality programs, she continued, is a blight to the professionalism of the public broadcasting service.
Yachimovich, who is a former anchor woman with Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet, said that it is easy to destroy something but much harder to build a replacement. Shai is familiar with IBA from twin perspectives: he was a newsman for many years for Israel Radio and Israel Television before it was called Channel One; more recently he was chairman of the IBA’s board.
To outsource news is a severe blow to the basic professional values of journalism, he said. “Journalists must have independence and freedom to act in accordance with their profession.”
Shai was doubtful whether Koblentz could achieve more in the coming six months than he has already, and commented that people associated with the projected IBC have already stated that in six months time, it will still not be operational.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who had tried unsuccessfully to turn the clock back to a reform agreement signed by representatives of the Finance Ministry, Histadrut Federation of Labor, and the Journalists Union, said that Meretz has no confidence in the government because of its failure in matters relating to the IBA.
“The government is making a mockery of the law,” he declared, charging that the IBA was an example of the government’s negligence and irresponsibility.
Tourism Minister Likud MK Yariv Levin defended the bill, saying that the aim is to provide a better quality and more efficient public broadcasting service, and that the outsourcing was a temporary measure.
The Jerusalem Journalists Association, which is the union representative for the IBA journalists, is opposed to outsourcing news and actuality programs, which it says are the heartbeat of public broadcasting. From the perspective of the JJA, privatizing the news signifies crossing a redline in the public broadcasting law.
The bill now has to go for final approval to the Knesset Economics Committee, chaired by Eitan Cabel.
The Zionist Union MK once served as the minister responsible for the IBA.
Although he voted in favor of dismantling it, pundits say that he is unlikely to agree to anything that worsens the conditions of remaining IBA staff.