For months now, Danny Zaken, chairman of the Jerusalem Journalists Association,
had been telling the members of his board that an agreement on the reforms that
would take the Israel Broadcasting Authority into a new era was on the verge of
After he had relayed this information again and again, it
began to sound like the opposite extreme of the boy who cried
Zaken, who like his predecessors for more than 20 years have spent
days and many sleepless nights at the negotiating table with IBA management,
representatives of the Histadrut and the Treasury, continued to remain
optimistic despite the history of failure in which the reforms were
Even in the final days before the signing on Sunday night, the
night of the fifth Hanukka candle, he had to contend with new arguments raised
by union representatives of IBA employees.
At the IBA there was a sense
of euphoria which may have been premature. Glasses were raised to toast what was
termed an historic agreement.
But it has yet to be ratified by the
Treasury, which time and again has threatened to withhold funds from the
Now, when the IBA management and the Jerusalem Journalists
Association have finally reached a point of consensus to which Zaken and IBA
director general Moti Sklaar put their signatures, the Treasury could suddenly
decide that it cannot honor its previous commitments to the IBA because funds
have to be diverted to the North of the country for rehabilitation projects
following the devastation created by the fires in the Carmel.
attending the signing ceremony were Moushon Matzliach, acting head of Channel
One Television, Arye Shaked, acting manager of Israel Radio and head of the
negotiating team for the reforms, Yoram Cohen, acting head of the Channel One
news division and Moti Amir, the manager of Israel Radio’s Reshet
“This is an historic day for the IBA” declared Sklaar, who noted
that now that an agreement had been signed with the Journalists Association, it
could be safely anticipated that an agreement will also be signed with the
The signing of the two agreements he said, would guarantee the
continuity of public broadcasting in Israel, and would enable it to take its
rightful place in Israel’s field of communication.
With all the
excitement surrounding the signing ceremony, Sklaar did not lose sight of the
painful process that lies ahead – that of notifying hundreds of IBA employees
that they are about to lose their jobs.
This was the integral issue of
Neither the Journalists Association nor the Histadrut were
willing to have people go out on early retirement or to be dismissed without
The whole structure of salaries at the IBA was such
that no one earning a basic salary could live in dignity.
A perks system
that allowed for overtime payments without absolute proof that people had indeed
worked during the claimed time was criticized in several reports of the State
Comptroller; but beyond threatening to put in a clock for journalists and other
staff to punch in when entering and leaving the building, the IBA management did
very little to rectify the situation.
The threat of the clock met with
strong resistance, and in the final analysis was not implemented because it
didn’t make sense for journalists on assignment to locations on the other side
of town or beyond to come to the studio and punch a clock and then go out
It was nothing more than a waste of time.
Association and the Histadrut each demanded a proper severance package for
everyone going out on early retirement or being let go. The idea was that those
who had to leave would do so in dignity, with the full knowledge that they had
been adequately compensated for their loss of a place of work.
all the pain involved in parting with close to half of the IBA’s work force, the
agreement represents a major turning point in the history of the IBA said
Sklaar, who lauded all those who had put so much time and effort into bringing
the agreement to fruition. In this context he did not overlook the importance of
the contribution by Zaken’s predecessor Hika Ginosar, who was also lauded by
Sklaar likewise had complimentary remarks for the Treasury
representatives, whose efforts had enabled the negotiators to find a modus
Shaked, a former chairman of the National Union of Israel
Journalists, crossed the floor three years ago, as did Amnon Nadav many years
However as head of the negotiating team, he did have the
advantage of genuinely understanding both sides of the story. The signing of the
agreement he said, was the answer to all those skeptics who said the reforms
would never be implemented.
Zaken expressed pride in the fact the
Journalists Association was the first to sign the agreement with the
“We are signing this agreement in the belief that the reforms can be
carried out and we call on the Treasury and the government to guarantee the
financial stability of the IBA and to desist from all interference in the work
of journalists who will continue to operate in accordance with professional
standards,” he said.
“We expect the management of the IBA to utilize the
tools at its disposal to rehabilitate the IBA and to restore it to its former
prestige,” he stated before going home to catch up on lost sleep.