Ometz, the watchdog organization that works towards social justice and proper,
corruption-free and transparent administration, has written to Eyal Gabai, the
director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, urging that Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu appoint a new executive board of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority as quickly as possible.
Netanyahu is the minister responsible
for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law. Yuli Edelstein, who
was initially given the task by Netanyahu, returned his mandate after Netanyahu
refused to endorse businessman Amnon Dick, who was Edelstein’s candidate for the
chairmanship of the IBA.
Netanyahu subsequently appointed Gabai to handle
the IBA on his behalf, a move that provoked heated debate in the Knesset, where
MKs on both the left and the right accused the prime minister of trying to
control the IBA and thereby politicizing it, after years in which attempts had
been made to free public broadcasting from political pressures.
Knesset is in the process of formulating a new IBA law.
Meanwhile in July
of this year, Amir Gilat was appointed IBA chairman, a choice that by and large
met with the approval of IBA staff members, because Gilat comes from the media
world, and it was presumed that he would have a better understanding of the
problems that have long beset the IBA.
Strictly speaking, a new IBA
executive board and plenum should have been appointed in the immediate aftermath
of Gilat taking office, but Netanyahu has been dragging his heels with the
result that the outgoing plenum is currently responsible for decisions affecting
the future of the IBA, but may not be around to oversee the implementation of
The Ometz letter notes that previous requests for the
appointment of an executive board have gone unheeded, and now that vital
decisions about the IBA reforms are being made, the professional interests of
the IBA are being ignored, because according to Ometz, the plenum is nothing
more than a rubber stamp.
Ometz is concerned that some of the decisions
related to the IBA’s reforms are more in the nature of settling scores, rather
than truly beneficial measures.
The reforms have been on the agenda of
every minister responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority
Law for at least the past 20 years.
Enormous sums of money have been
spent on hiring strategic consultants to examine the workings of the IBA and to
make concrete proposals for reforms. The work has entailed literally hundreds of
hours of investigations and meetings, but no final agreement has been signed
between the IBA Management, the Treasury, the Jerusalem Journalists Association
and the Histadrut.
The Treasury issued an ultimatum during the tenure of
the previous IBA chairman Moshe Gavish, that unless the IBA could work more
efficiently and considerably reduce its deficit by cutting more than 40 percent
of its payroll, the Treasury would no longer contribute to the IBA budget, and
the IBA might be forced to close.
Gavish brought in a fresh batch of
consultants who conducted yet another in-depth survey and came up with a new set
of recommendations for reform.
Even before Gilat appeared on the scene,
it looked as if the reforms would finally be approved. After numerous meetings
among representatives of the four bodies who have to sign the agreement, painful
decisions were made and expectations were high that the agreement would be
signed by the very latest in the week preceding Rosh Hashana.
The plenum is due to meet early next week to discuss the few
outstanding issues in the reforms and to give final approval.
people are confident that this will actually occur. There have been too many
disappointments, and the lives of more than 600 people are in limbo. The reforms
call for adjustments to their salaries, as well as pensions that will enable
them to live in relative comfort and dignity after leaving the IBA. Until the
agreement is signed, these conditions will not apply, so none of the people
affected can afford to simply resign and go home.
Meanwhile, the IBA’s
deficit is growing day by day.