Broadcasting Authority reforms put on hold

Implementation of the reforms would cost a tremendous amount of money that is unlikely to be available anytime soon.

By
August 2, 2011 04:00
3 minute read.
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IBA logo311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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After all the hype about Broadcasting Authority reforms, all the midnight oil burnt during negotiations, all the money spent on surveys to determine exactly what the reforms should be, and all the anxieties foisted on IBA employees who did not and do not know if they are among the 600 plus people who will have to disappear from the payroll – it looks as if the reforms have been put on hold, perhaps indefinitely.

Implementation of the reforms would cost a tremendous amount of money that is unlikely to be available anytime soon, given that the government must now turn its attention to the demands of those citizens who want to eat cheaper cottage cheese, reinforce the public health system, have access to affordable housing, find jobs, get free education for their children and live under a set of new economic priorities.

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Confronted with all that, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is the minister responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law, has given instructions to the IBA to divest itself of a considerable portion of its property in order to pay for the reforms.

The Executive Board of the IBA is now in the process of preparing a divestment plan, which some IBA veterans are convinced will lead to the eventual demise of the IBA.

If production studios are sold, for instance, this will give further justification to those clauses in the reform agreement that call for a large percentage of productions to be outsourced. These clauses were inserted at the instigation of the state comptroller who found that production costs often went over budget because almost everyone was paid overtime.

Outsourcing would do away with overtime payments, but in the end would also have a considerable affect on the payroll because production staff would gradually become superfluous and would be dismissed.

Without production staff, the IBA could not remain true to its mandate to produce original productions.

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Under the original agreement for getting the reforms on track, the Finance Ministry was supposed to give the IBA a grant of NIS 90 million out of a NIS 240m. loan that would be partially reimbursed through the raising of the levy for broadcasting receivers.

Given the new economic realties, the levy is not being raised, so there will be no additional income from that direction.

The only other immediate option for acquiring the necessary funds is through the sale of IBA assets.

For this purpose, the IBA has hired a property assayer to evaluate all its property assets, which are quite considerable and located in different parts of the country.

This work should be completed within the next few weeks.

The executive board has decided in principle to sell off the Shaarei Zedek property in the capital, which serves as IBA headquarters, as well as properties in Jerusalem’s Rehov Yermiyahu, plus a property in Haifa, with the aim of getting the maximum possible price. It was also decided to sell the IBA’s main studio buildings in the capital’s Romema neighborhood.

The decision taken on Sunday also took into account the possibility of negotiating compensation for the evacuation of the IBA studios from the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. This could result in the IBA being offered either an alternate site or a monetary incentive.

All this, according to chairman Amir Gilat, is to facilitate the rehabilitation of the IBA, but if all of the above happens, there will be almost nothing left of the IBA.

On the other hand, say some of the IBA veterans, money is tight in most places, and very few people will be in a hurry to spend such huge sums, with the possible exception of haredi real estate developers who are building giant residential complexes all over Romema and surrounds.

Under those circumstances the IBA could hold out for a really good price.

But if the real estate deals fail to materialize, say the veterans, there is still hope in the fact that no government of Israel serves a full term. Given the economic turmoil, it seems unlikely that this one will be any different, they say. If the government falls, this could provide a respite for the IBA until a new prime minister comes into office.

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