Public complaints against IBA doubled last year, mostly dealing with licensing fees

The authority has failed to implement much-vaunted reforms that its management agreed to.

By
February 18, 2014 02:47
2 minute read.
IBA

IBA logo 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of IBA)

In 2013, the public sent some 3,700 letters of complaint to the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which collects mandatory license fees from radio and TV owners.

According to an Army Radio report, the number was up from approximately 1,800 complaints in 2012, and roughly 900 in 2010. The main cause of complaint was the bombardment of written threats from the licensing department in the event that the fee was not paid. Of the complaints, 1,045 referred to letters of harassment that the IBA sent.

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The IBA has doubled down on its attempts to collect fees, in a struggle to overcome a deficit during a decrease in the activity of journalists working for its Reshet Bet radio station, who are taking action in protest of low wages and poor work conditions.

The authority has failed to implement much-vaunted reforms that its management agreed to and signed together with the Finance Ministry and various workers’ unions.

A meeting between representatives of Israel Radio’s journalists union and IBA director-general Yoni Ben-Menachem is scheduled for Tuesday, after the Tel Aviv Labor Court ordered the two sides in the dispute to try to negotiate a compromise.

Union head Eran Sikurel told The Jerusalem Post that salaries for working overtime had not been fully paid for at least half a year, and that there had been cutbacks on other moneys previously paid to employees as well as a deterioration of work conditions.

There will be another court hearing next week to determine whether the journalists have a right to strike if their demands are not met.

“We want to cause the public as little inconvenience as possible,” said Sikurel, “but we also have to fight for our rights.”

The annual fee that TV owners must pay is NIS 345, and a radio license costs NIS 125.

Owners of radios and TVs must pay the fee regardless of whether they ever use the devices, and regardless of whether they tune in to channels operated by the IBA. The onus for payment of the license fee is on the public, whether they get a bill or not.

At the end of 2011, the license fee was reduced by 5 percent, and canceled altogether for anyone who did not have a digital broadcasting converter and was not a subscriber to a multichannel cable or satellite service provider.

People entitled to the exemption have to sign a declaration every year for three consecutive years attesting to the reason for their exemption.

The IBA undertook to reimburse anyone entitled to an exemption who had paid the licensing fee during the period July 2011-July 2013.

These factors meant an acute loss of revenue for the IBA, which relies heavily on license fees for its income even though it broadcasts commercials on radio and sponsorships on television.

The ongoing deficit has precluded new productions, and many television broadcasts are repeated again and again.

Following scathing reports of the IBA by the State Comptroller, various payments that were made to staff to supplement their low salaries were canceled. In protest, content providers began a policy of decreasing their output, reducing the air time of some programs by as much as half and completely canceling others with no advance notice. Radio listeners moved to Army Radio, further reducing funds.


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