(photo credit: Courtesy)
Just like in the story of the boy who cried wolf, the tale of the Israel
Broadcasting Authority has been told so often that few people believe it any
The plot concerns the IBA and its perennially increasing deficit.
The authority has a huge surplus of employees, and although most of them are
paid very low salaries, the payroll is one of the primary reasons for the
There is consensus that the IBA needs a managerial
overhaul, or what it calls “reform,” a word that has been bandied around at the
IBA for over 30 years. A series of government ministers who were tasked with
introducing and implementing reforms began their work with enthusiasm, but each
one failed miserably in their efforts for widespread changes.
however, it finally seemed that reforms were becoming a reality. The main
problem had always been getting rid of the approximately 700 surplus staff
members, who must be given severance pay and whose pensions must be favorably
adjusted in order to dissuade them from protesting the decision.
cannot make such arrangements without the agreement and support of the Finance
Ministry, which has been bailing it out for years.
A solution to the
financing problem was found in which the IBA would sell most of its properties
in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and relocate to Lod, where real estate is infinitely
The Finance Ministry had agreed to make funds available to the
IBA during the interim period between the sale of the properties and the
completion of construction in Lod, but it also required the authority to begin
the dismissals process.
About a year ago, all the relevant documents were
signed by the IBA’s management, and Finance Ministry and union representatives
as well as representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office. The agreement also
stipulated that the IBA reduce its outsourcing and have more in-house
Many months have passed, and other than the acquisition of
some new state-of-the-art equipment, little has changed.
IBA chairman Amir Gilat sent a letter to the staff in which he referred to the
agreement signed on August 5, 2012, with the Finance Ministry, the Prime
Minister’s Office, and the Israel Lands Administration. The IBA, wrote Gilat,
did everything in its power to speed things along, including the reintroduction
of the levy imposed on owners of television sets.
A bill to this effect
passed its first second and third readings in the Knesset and was approved by
the Knesset Finance Committee a day prior to the recess of the previous Knesset,
Several dates for the start of the reform process have been
announced, but they came and went without incident.
“We preferred to give
common sense on the part of all sides an extra chance instead of instantly
announcing the demise of the IBA,” wrote Gilat.
The budget for 2013,
which was approved by the institutions of the IBA and forwarded to the Finance
Ministry, is entirely dependent on the implementation of the reforms. However,
as this has yet to occur, Gilat instructed management to formulate an alternate
budget in the event that the reforms will again be suspended. The executive
committee has in principle approved the alternate budget, which has been cut
back from the original by NIS 140 million.
A cutback of such severity
will have dire consequences for IBA employees. Perks will be virtually
nonexistent. The quality of programs will be affected, which will be a bitter
blow for public broadcasting, which does not enjoy a high rating in comparison
to commercial broadcasts.
According to the forecasts of the IBA’s finance
division, if things continue this way, the authority will not be able to meet
its payment for more than another two months.
According to Gilat, if the
original budget is not put into effect by May 1, the alternate budget will
automatically replace it.
“Whoever has eyes in his head understands the
significance of such measures with regard to the continued existence of the
IBA,” wrote Gilat, emphasizing that without the immediate implementation of the
reforms that will enable the dismissal of 700 employees, the restructuring of
the organization and a technological upgrade to the tune of NIS 330 million, the
days of the IBA and public broadcasting are numbered.
have been issued by Gilat’s predecessors, yet there was always a last minute
bailout by the Finance Ministry.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s late
father Yosef “Tommy” Lapid was a director-general of the IBA and the finance
minister used to host a talk show on the IBA’s Channel 1.
will be swayed by sentiment or decide that public broadcasting is one of his
less important priorities remains anyone’s guess.