While Kazakhstan billionaire Alexander Machkevitch was preempted this week by
Ukrainian oligarchs Igor Kolomoisky and Vadim Rabinovich in the tentative bid to
set up a Jewish channel modeled on Al Jazeera, British broadcaster Carolyn
Mendelson was in Israel talking to people in the communications industry about
launching an English-language 24- hour radio broadcast from Israel.
calls her proposed venture TovNews24, and is certain it could develop into
Internet and television streams, providing Israel-related news, documentaries,
features, debates and talkbacks that would reach out to the whole
The idea is to tell many of the positive stories about Israel that
get little or no coverage via other media outlets, Mendelson said.
interview in Tel Aviv with The Jerusalem Post,
Mendelson, who lived in Israel
for 12 years and operated what she called an English ulpan, where she taught
English to Israelis, while praising various efforts to paint a more balanced
picture of Israel than that which is currently portrayed, insisted that what she
hoped would eventually become a multimedia news channel be headquartered in
Why, when everything is so accessible in our global village?
Because Mendelson sees her project not only as a news and current affairs
outlet, but also as a bridge and ultimately a builder of confidence between
Israelis and Palestinians. While debates and talkbacks can easily be
conducted via the Internet or on the telephone, she acknowledged, nothing beats
face-toface contact, because it’s in such situations that people can get to know
each other either while waiting for their turn to go to air, or by continuing
their conversation afterward.
Political negotiations at the government
level are not the same as people-to-people contacts among Israelis and
Palestinians who will ultimately have to coexist, she said.
drawn up a detailed plan that includes both the format and the costs, which she
estimates would be around $5 million, but is certain, based on experience in the
United States, that this money could be quickly recouped through direct and
In Miami, the Glasgowborn Mendelson had her own
radio talk show, Baby Hour, which she ran for nearly two years, and claims that
her accent was not a deterrent. “The Americans loved it.”
program was broadcast at 5 a.m. and was geared toward new and expectant mothers.
Mendelson brought experts from every field of baby care, and in a very short
time, people were lining up to appear on the show, which had an ever-growing
audience of mothers who were feeding their babies at the crack of dawn.
Mendelson made money from some of her interviewees by doing infomercials for
She is fully confident that once TovNews24 is up and running,
companies, especially those interested in projecting both their own and Israel’s
images, will be happy to advertise.
There is no need to set up a studio
with expensive infrastructure, she said, because there are enough broadcasting
outlets from which airtime can be bought.
Mendelson is buoyed by the
growth of Al Jazeera, which started out in November 1996 as the first
independent Arabic language satellite news channel, with a staff of 120
journalists who had been trained by the BBC.
It broadcast for six hours a
day, then 12 and ultimately 24 by January 1999. Exactly 10 years after its first
broadcast, Al Jazeera launched its English language broadcasts and expanded its
news-gathering facilities, opening bureaus in many parts of the world. Today, it
has a staff of around 2,500, including more than 400 journalists, and it claims
to have more than 50 million regular viewers around the world and has plans to
broadcast in additional languages.
The essential difference, of course,
was the availability of finance and the willingness by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad
bin Khalifa to provide a loan of $137m. to enable Al Jazeera to operate free of
financial worries for its first five years.
Mendelson is looking for seed
money. She has spoken to cabinet ministers and other people of influence in the
government, who have told her that she has a wonderful idea, but that they have
no budgets. She has also spoken to business people who are wary of committing to
large expenditures while the world is experiencing an economic
She has spoken to Israeli broadcasters who are madly
enthusiastic, but who are in no position to finance her project.
bouncy Mendelson remains undeterred. Other countries are promoting themselves
through new media, as well as through satellite channels, and Israel must do the
same before it is too late, she said.
Various groups and individuals have
their own pro-Israel Internet sites, and publish blogs and YouTube items, but
it’s not a coordinated effort, and even collectively, it’s not sufficiently
effective, she said.
Mendelson hopes to bring together a team of trained
and experienced professionals whose names are already household words, and then
to try to follow Al Jazeera’s example on a smaller scale.
She is thinking
of trying to raise capital in the same way that the Jewish National Fund in its
early years raised funds through the Blue Box.
Tens of thousands of Jews
around the world filled their Blue Boxes with coins, which when amassed amounted
to considerable sums enabling the JNF to buy land, clear swamps and plant
If enough Jews care to invest only a few hundred dollars each,
the money will mount up the $5m. required to get the project moving for several
months and to pay the salaries of some 20 broadcasting staff, she said.