State comptroller to probe IBA politicization

Announcement made toward end of Knesset State Control Committee meeting on labor relations at the broadcasting authority.

By
January 10, 2012 22:07
3 minute read.
IBA

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

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced on Tuesday he will launch a probe into complaints about politicization and fear pervading the corridors of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Lindenstrauss made the announcement toward the conclusion of a meeting of the Knesset State Control Committee that was dealing with labor relations at the IBA.

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Israel’s media archives are abound with reports about the problematic labor relations at the IBA, and this was just another chapter in a long saga.

The most recent complaint hinges on the latest round of IBA appointments, allegedly made without warning or consultation. In addition, there were complaints from the Jerusalem Journalists Association as well as from IBA employees that applications in response to tenders published by the IBA are a waste of time and effort because the appointments are pre-determined and that the Tenders Committee, which is supposed to consider each application, is merely camouflage.

This was confirmed by Haim Zisovich, a former Israel Radio reporter, commentator and news and current affairs anchor, who sat on the last Tenders Committee and who has sat on previous Tenders Committees.

The appointments are always pre-determined, said Zisovich. There was some discussion after meetings with applicants, he acknowledged, but the head of the radio would then have his say, after which no one dared contradict him. It wasn’t a majority or unanimous decision. It was basically his.

Responding to allegations from both inside and outside the IBA that appointments are politically motivated, IBA Director-General Yoni Ben- Menachem denied any political interference. Many tenders had been published and applicants selected without fuss said Ben-Menachem, but there were certain camps of disgruntled employees within the IBA, who when something wasn’t to their liking, complained that appointments had been unfairly made and with some political agenda in mind.

Ben-Menachem, who was appointed half a year ago, was also the target of such complaints, as was Israel Radio CEO Michael Miro, who provoked a great deal of anger last week, when he started playing musical chairs with the beats of seasoned reporters, who in most cases did not appreciate being re-assigned.

Miro’s explanation at the time was that reporters covering a certain beat for a long time get burned out and fresh, new approaches are needed. He did not apply this philosophy to himself. Miro anchors an environmental program as well as a social welfare program, in which there has been no infusion of new blood in either case.

Miro insisted that the Tenders Committee operated on a purely professional basis.

Labor MK Eitan Cabel, who as a minister-without-portfolio had been responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law, said the pervasive fear within the IBA was beyond belief.

Kadima MK Nachman Shai, a former IBA chairman and in his younger years a television reporter, said that while it was legitimate to once in a while switch people around in their different beats, the way in which it had been done was questionable. Shai also related to surveys carried out by the IBA with regard to various national issues, and suggested there might be a conflict of interests because no one knew who had ordered the surveys or for what purpose. Thus when the results of the surveys were broadcast, it was possible they were serving a particular political agenda.

Kadima MK Shlomo Molla was furious that Tsega Melaku, who three years ago was appointed director of Reshet Alef, had been dismissed. She was the only Ethiopian at the IBA with executive responsibility, he said.

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely sprang to the defense of the IBA saying reporters who were not motivated should not be continuing with what they were doing. Such decisions were professional, she said.

Jerusalem Journalists Association Chairman Danny Zaken, who is also a broadcaster on Israel Radio, said that even in the case of justifiable appointments, the outcome was known in advance and the Tenders Committee was just a farce.

This was disputed by Arye Koren, the new CEO of Reshet Bet, who dismissed all the grievances and said they were just myths.

Yossi Hadar, the recently appointed news coordinator concurred, and said it was all the work of a group that imagined that it had an axe to grind.


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