Newspapers in Israel have taken a serious hit in recent years, a new study conducted by the Knesset's Center for Research and published Sunday indicates. But MK Shelly Yacimovich, who commissioned the study, says that she will try to come up with ways to save Israel's fourth estate.
In the six years between 2002 and 2008, the number of Israelis exposed to daily newspapers dropped by approximately 11%, the study found. Between 2003-2007, the amount of money spent by Israeli households on newspapers dropped by almost 20%.
The number of daily papers available to Israeli readers has declined by 23% since the 1970s, and the study also found that "there has been a sharp decline in the scale of sales, in the number of subscribers and in the income of papers, and there are also reports about internal difficulties in the papers and 'economizing programs' that have been implemented." Â
There are 21 daily newspapers published in Israel, 13 of which are in Hebrew, two in Arabic, two in English, and one each in German, Hungarian, Romanian and Russian.
Of the Hebrew papers, two are distributed free, three are business-focused and three target the haredi sector. The number of newspapers per million citizens has dropped from 7.3 in 1978 to 2.83 in 2009.
Yacimovich, a former journalist, stressed that she believes the print media is of enormous importance both to Israeli democracy and to its reading culture.
As part of the study, Yacimovich asked the research center to also examine what has been done in other countries to lend a hand to their homegrown newspaper market.
In many European countries, the center found, newspapers are offered support from the government, with a number of types of assistance employed in different states. These might include direct financial grants awarded on the basis of specific criteria, government advertising in newspapers and indirect support through tax benefits, mail pricing, subsidized transport and communication, "friendly" loans, and grants for specific research projects.
Some European states have been supporting newspapers since the 1950s, while what researchers labeled "the Anglo-Saxon approach" typical of the United States and the UK, discourages any type of government involvement in the newspaper market.
In recent months, the Knesset has been called in to aid other Israeli media outlets, most notably the privately run Channel 10 television station, which was on the brink of financial collapse. Yacimovich's office said that in the coming days, the second-term Labor MK would consider a number of different solutions in the hopes of finding one that would stop the print media's decline.