Gilad Schalit first meets with IDF officers 311.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The local media coverage of Gilad Schalit’s release Tuesday after over five
years in Hamas captivity drew the highest ratings ever recorded for a single day
of TV viewing, Dr. Yifat Ben Hay-Segev, CEO of the Israel Audience Research
Board (IARB) told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
According to the
information collected by the IARB, which was created in 1995 to monitor Israel’s
viewing habits, throughout the day Tuesday the average ratings were around 38
percent of the television-watching public, with some 3.5 million people exposed
to the ongoing news reports featured on Channels 1, 2, 10 and Russian language
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While individual TV shows, such as the Eurovision Song Contest
in the past, and the recent finale of the reality cooking show Master Chef
garnered 46% to 48% of the ratings, at its peak (from 6 p.m.-7 p.m.) Tuesday’s
coverage reached 47% of the overall ratings.
“It is really a record –
these are figures that we have not seen before,” stated Ben Hay-Segev, adding
that some 1.5 million Israeli households tuned in to watch the soldier’s
“We have had high ratings before but we are talking about the
finals of reality TV shows such as Kochav Nolad (A Star is Born), where people
watched for, at the most three hours. This time, the ratings remained very high
throughout the entire day,” she said.
Ben Hay-Segev said that the high
volume of viewers glued to the media coverage of Schalit’s release could easily
be explained by the popularity of the reality TV genre.
“Here we have
story that has similar ingredients to a reality TV show,” she
“There are the good guys versus the bad guys, an army, a soldier
and then the emotional reunion with his family.
There is also the
tension, the fear and the climax that made this into a reality
Comparing Israel’s TV habits with those of other Western
nations, Ben Hay- Segev explained that Israelis are “news obsessed” more than in
most other countries, which also explains why the news coverage was sustainable
from early in the morning until late at night.
“We see it almost daily
here where the TV ratings for the news are incomparable to any other Western
country,” she said, giving the example of President Barack Obama’s inauguration
“Only 60 million Americans – not even 20% of the ratings – went
to his televised speech,” said Ben Hay-Segev.
“In Israel, Channel 2 News
gets close to 20% every night, and if you add to that Channel 10 and Channel 1,
then you have an even higher viewership for the news. Of course we live in a
very tense and unstable climate, so it is very understandable that people tune
into the news,” she said, adding “after watching the news, however, people do
like to escape by watching some reality show, drama or Telenovella. We need both
news and drama equally.”
Asked if that explains why Tuesday’s day-long
coverage of Schalit’s homecoming was so overwhelming popular, Ben Hay-Segev said
It was not pure news, it was what we call in communication’s
theory ‘info-tainment,’ a combination of entertainment and
“The media here is very aware of this basic core need we
have, and reacts accordingly,” she said, explaining, “The special broadcasts and
the combination of hard-news journalists with talents like Yair Lapid, who are
more entertaining, is no doubt what sustained the continual high ratings all day
The IARB was founded in February 1995 to establish a
television-viewing audience measurement system in Israel. Based on the most
up-to-date technology used in the world for audience measurement, the system is
accepted by the Israel broadcasting and advertising community.