Ometz asks Netanyahu to appoint executive board at IBA

Watchdog organization asks PM to institute reforms and implement the Broadcast Authority Law.

By
October 24, 2010 02:21
3 minute read.

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.

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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.

The 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 those decisions.

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.

That did not happen.

The plenum is due to meet early next week to discuss the few outstanding issues in the reforms and to give final approval.

But few 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.


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