IBA: Finance Ministry is impeding implementation of reforms

Treasury seen as foot-dragging on honoring its commitments in contracts that it signed with IBA and Histadrut year ago.

By
November 22, 2011 05:12
4 minute read.
Amir Gilat.

Amir Gilat 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Doctors and contract workers are not the only ones at odds with the Finance Ministry. The Israel Broadcasting Authority is also upset because the Ministry is foot-dragging on honoring its commitments in contracts that it signed with the IBA and the Histadrut a year ago.

The situation has left some 700 IBA employees in limbo.

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These are the people who were to be dismissed under conditions that were sufficiently favorable financially to take the sting out of finding themselves unemployed.

However the Finance Ministry has not made the necessary funding available, and for the IBA, it’s a lose-lose situation.

The retrenchments were part of a cost-savings efficiency measure, and a condition set down by the Finance Ministry for helping the IBA to overcome its deficit.

The IBA management had to battle a host of objections from internal union representatives as well as those of the Jerusalem Journalists Association and the Histadrut.

There were a lot of drawnout meetings, many continuing late into the night, until finally all sides including the Finance Ministry representatives reached agreement.

But it seems as if that was all that was achieved. Following the signing of the agreement exactly a year ago, there was no progress.

Now desperate because of the waning financial resources of the IBA, Chairman Amir Gilat wrote to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on November 10 to remind him that the IBA had walked the extra mile but had not received its reward for doing so.

All previous contracts – including collective wage agreements – had been canceled and new agreements in line with the Finance Ministry’s demands had been drawn up, he wrote. Of the 1900 people on the IBA payroll, 700 were to be made redundant; and the IBA’s operations were to be centered on three main areas – Jerusalem, the Dan region and Haifa.

The IBA had complied with all this on the understanding that on a gradual scale, the IBA would be able to acquire outsourced productions or external productions that had no IBA input to the extent of NIS 200 million per year. This would be in accordance with the Broadcasting Authority Law whereby the IBA is required to use 36 percent of its income to purchase outside productions.

Under the present circumstances, wrote Gilat, the IBA is unable to fulfill this condition.

According to the terms of the agreement, the IBA was supposed to receive a grant of NIS 90 million plus a loan of NIS 240 million. An additional NIS 400 million was supposed to come from an increase in the broadcasting levy.

Although the IBA carried out its side of the agreement the process was not completed, wrote Gilat. The reforms are stagnating and the IBA and its employees are somehow being held to ransom.

On the one hand there is no money with which to implement the reforms, and on the other the Finance Ministry will not permit IBA employees to receive any financial bonuses including such as were previously paid or which are currently paid to all other workers in the public sector.

The IBA cannot continue to operate under this ongoing shadow of uncertainty, without financial resources or the ability to get them, wrote Gilat.

The decision to raise the broadcasting levy was never carried out.

Recently, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – who is the minister responsible for ensuring that the Broadcasting Law is obeyed – proposed that to reduce its deficit the IBA sell off some of its assets.

The various institutions of the IBA catalogued the saleable assets and presented the list to the Finance Ministry but has yet to receive a response.

Even if the sales were to be conducted, wrote Gilat, the negotiations would take time, something that the IBA does not have.

Gilat made allowances for the possibility that the Finance Ministry cannot live up to the full extent of its promise, but even providing partial funds immediately and the remainder in installments would be preferable to the status quo. With some funding in hand, the IBA could at least provide severance pay for those employees who voluntarily agree to step down, which would enable the IBA to invest more in content and new technologies.

Gilat expressed his fear that if the Finance Ministry is embracing an all-or-nothing policy, the IBA will be left with nothing.

Gilat requested a written response to his letter. Just as he is still waiting for funding, he’s still waiting for the response.

Copies of the letter have been sent to the prime minister, to senior members of the Finance Ministry, to the IBA executive board and to IBA Director-General Yoni Ben Menachem.


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