After months of emergency meetings, threats, protests and ministerial changing of the guard, representatives of the Finance Ministry, the management of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the workers' unions finally got together on Wednesday to begin negotiating the IBA's restructuring in the hope that it can be salvaged before it self-destructs.
The IBA has been operating under enormous and ever increasing deficits for several years, and the Finance Ministry made it clear that without drastic reforms, the IBA could no longer rely on the Treasury for support.
The reforms call for changes in the structure of the IBA, the creation of new wage agreements and the reduction of the work force. Treasury and union representatives agreed in principle to these changes, but have not yet sat down to discuss them in detail.
Wednesday's session was an exercise in treading water before the three sides get down to the nitty-gritty.
However, there was agreement that without the dedicated efforts of IBA chairman Moshe Gavish, the parties would not have come together with a common aim. All the sides also expressed their desire to conclude the negotiations as honorably, efficiently and quickly as possible, so that the IBA can start to rehabilitate itself.
Gavish reiterated that the issue is not whether or not to introduce reforms, but whether to live or perish. Under the status quo, without adequate resources or infrastructure, which in turn affect the quality and quantity of productions, it is impossible to supply the kind of public broadcasting that would justify the existence of the IBA or the payment of the licensing fee, he said.
"The reform is the only possibility left for operating public broadcasting in accordance with proper management, correct standards and economic principles," he said.
State employees union chairman Ariel Ya'acobi said that although the details of the reforms have not yet been discussed by all concerned, "there is no dispute over the need for reform." However he added that there would be no agreement without concern for the dignity and rights of the IBA employees.
Jerusalem Journalists Association chairman Ahiya Genossar said
that the National Union of Israel Journalists was ready to enter into negotiations on the reforms out of the desire to preserve and improve public broadcasting on condition that the status of journalists and their working conditions would not be harmed, and that those who would be let go could leave honorably and with the best possible form of compensation.
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