Media Comment: Neubach- should she go?

The present code of ethics of the IBA still states that the IBA has no voice of its own.

August 1, 2012 22:31
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IBA logo311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The directors of the IBA decided that the Kol Yisrael morning radio program of Keren Neubach, The Day’s Agenda, which focuses on social and economic issues, needs to be co-anchored. They first chose journalist Menachem Ben for this slot, but the brouhaha against him was so great that he was forced to resign after two days on the job.

Kol Yisrael’s Director Miki Miro and the IBA’s CEO Yoni Ben-Menachem were accused of acting on the orders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, thus politicizing the IBA and making unprofessional decisions. Ten members of the IBA plenum have called for a special convening of the plenum to deal with the situation and ostensibly overrule the decision of Miro and Ben Menachem.

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Indeed, the decision has raised many fundamental questions concerning the IBA and its programs, but to appreciate the issue one needs to recount some history.

Neubach presents herself as a very knowledgeable person.

On October 5, 2011, she stated that “the coalition formed against Trachtenberg [author of the Trachtenberg report on social-economic reforms in Israel] is a coalition of foreign interests... I doubt whether there is any connection between the coalition and social justice.”

Over a year later, in a six-minute interview on November 13 – in which she did not let Likud MK Yariv Levine finish his answers once – she gave him some excellent advice that instead of trying to legislate a new method for selecting Supreme Court Justices, he should first establish a constitution, and in any case, his suggested legislation “is a change in the rules of the game and one cannot know who will be hurt by them tomorrow.”

Neubach is also an expert in economics. On January 30 she postulated: “The problem with the Finance Ministry youths is that they behave according to the weltanschauung of Binyamin Netanyahu. It is the ideological view of Netanyahu and he will defend it whenever.”

THE IBA Ombudsman Elisha Spiegelman noted that Neubach should make it clear that her opinions are personal and that she should take care to provide opposing opinions.

On a different occasion, July 18, 2011, Neubach noted the interesting point of view of journalist Ben Caspit that an important element underlying the social injustice is the huge sums of money spent on the settlements. Here too, there was no rebuttal.

Neubach’s morning program is not the model of balance the ethics code prescribes. For example, on September 15, when the topic of women’s singing in the army was “hot,” she interviewed three people under the title “The religious extremization in the IDF.” The three included journalist Amos Harel from Ha’aretz, General (res.) Elazar Stern and Rabbi Yuval Sherlow. All were of the same opinion, voicing their opposition to “extremization.”

Arie Peri, and many others, pointed this out to the Ombudsman whose answer was, “in the program, there was a clear bias, since no one was invited to represent the opinion that defends those who believe that... one should not listen to women singing... I can only notify the editors of the program and the presenter that the ethical demand for decency includes them as it does any employee of the IBA.”

These are but a few examples of why so many journalists in Israel would have us believe that Neubach’s radio program is a model of excellent radio programming, when it isn’t. Neri Livne wrote on July 27 in Ha’aretz: “She is a professional radio-person and a true journalist.

It is especially the latter quality which is anathema to those who are operating as the messengers of the Prime Minister’s Office.”

When it became known that Menachem Ben would co-anchor Neubach’s program, the IBA’s Arieh Golan, who also uses his microphone to pontificate, introduced Neubach by saying: “And now to Keren Neubach, the one and only.” In an article in Ynet, Ariana Melamed described Neubach’s program as: “A program dedicated mainly to social and political rights of any citizen of Israel.” The headline of Einav Schiff’s article in Walla states: “The IBA against Keren Neubach – total cynicism on the taxpayer’s account.”

THE ANTI-MANAGEMENT anger at the IBA is deep.

Journalists demonstrated against the change, the program was shut down for an hour and the saga is not over.

Yet, as noted by Globes veteran journalist Matti Golan, when Amikam Rothman was given an early pension and his Tuesday program ended, no one went on to the barricades.

Golan claims that the reason for this is that Rothman was not an identifiable representative of the Left, while Neubach is. Paradoxically, Neubach’s liberal supporters, championing social justice and economic equality, are actually demanding that Neubach be awarded a monopoly over the public airwaves to preach her specific cause.

This is all on account of the pocketbooks of the citizens, not all who identify with her political perspective.

The present code of ethics of the IBA still states that the IBA has no voice of its own. Had the IBA stayed true to its own principles, the l’affair Neubach would not have occurred. She would not have been allowed to use the public microphone to further her own views and there would not have been any need to find someone to balance her.

Indeed, the need to provide pluralism on the IBA is legally bound, but it simply is not heeded. We have in this column noted more than once that the IBA’s legal commentator Moshe Negbi is not balanced by someone with different views.

Arieh Golan’s biased comments and interviews are a similar reflection of the same problem. After over a year, Miro has at most made incremental changes in the makeup of the central players in Kol Yisrael.

SHOULD NEUBACH go? If the addition of a co-anchor is limited only to Neubach, then the detractors might seem to be justified in their criticism.

Why do they ask, “Is Neubach singled out?” But if the IBA does the right thing and provides pluralism and balance across the board and stops the everlasting (and repetitive) programs of people who have not been replaced or balanced in years, then the Neubach episode will be a step in the right direction.

It will lead to the removal of the present ideological bias that exists among the IBA’s journalists and show hosts, and being true to the letter of the law, provide the right mix of balance and pluralism.

If this happens, then Neubach can stay and we can all be thankful to her for bringing these issues to the forefront.

The writers are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch

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