This past Tuesday, the Knesset Economics Committee, chaired by Professor Avishai
Braverman (Labor) discussed rehabilitating the Israel Broadcasting
The IBA’s leadership, chairman Dr. Amir Gilat and executive
director Yoni Ben-Menachem, are to be complimented for having brought to almost
full fruition a process that began almost a decade ago and was considered by
many to be impossible.
Yet the committee meeting was nothing but a
left-wing bashing of the present leadership of the IBA. Politicians such as MK
Eitan Cabel (Labor) called for the closing down of the state-sponsored
television and the abolishment of the TV fee (the agra). All this in the context
of “trying to save Israel’s public broadcasting.” Interestingly, not one MK from
the Likud or Bayit Yehudi parties thought the discussion merited their
The fact that the Israel Broadcasting Authority is a bloated
behemoth is no secret. It employs close to 2,000 people. The highest salaries go
to technicians whose jobs are outdated due to new technologies. There was no
financial accountability at the IBA. Managers do not have budgets to balance and
there is no system that would permit cost-itemizing of an hour’s broadcasting to
facilitate budget control. The IBA’s management structure is arguably the worst
of all public organizations in Israel.
These ills will hopefully be cured
with the onset of what has been termed in Hebrew “the reform.” The agreements
allow the management to reduce the workforce of the IBA to 1,200 and in
principle should introduce modern technology into the IBA.
It took almost
a decade to reach these agreements, which are technical in nature. The true
sickness of our public media station, which was not discussed in the Knesset
committee meeting, is that the IBA is not public, too many of its employees do
not feel the need to serve the public; to consider what the public needs are and
to obey the law that defines their job as public servants.
think the IBA should make efforts to present to the public the positive aspects
of the Jewish state.
But this is not to be. Just this past week, with
publication of the governmental report on the al-Dura case which absolved the
IDF from harming Muhammad al-Dura, the IBA’s coverage could have been coming out
of the United Nations. Al-Dura’s father, as well as France 2’s reporter Charles
Enderlin, were given free time to further promulgate their version of the events
without any tough questions asked.
This was not an isolated event.
Consider the latest “report” of the anti-Israel B’Tselem organization, headed
among others by the Israel Democracy Institute’s vice president Professor
Mordechai Kremnitzer. This organization recently (May 9) accused the IDF of
unnecessarily killing too many civilians in the recent Operation Pillar of
Defense. In their own words: “The report challenges the common perception in the
Israeli public and media that the operation was ‘surgical’ and caused
practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians.”
IBA’s Kol Yisrael radio station brought this accusation in its morning news as
if it was a regular news agency report. It also gave B’Tselem space in its
morning news roundup program.
We all know that B’Tselem is not a news
Its reports are questionable at best and too often outright
false in their accusations against Israelis. In this instance, NGO Monitor
pointed out that the “report” is far from objective, that its sources are not
reliable, that its assumptions about the motivation of the IDF are not based on
fact, but rather surmise and that in part the B’Tselem press release contradicts
its own findings.
The IBA is well aware that B’Tselem is unreliable. Back
in 2008, Israel’s Media Watch president at that time, Dr.
sent a letter to IBA chairman Moshe Gavish in which he noted that various
researchers – Tamar Sternthal from the CAMERA organization, Yonathan Halevy from
the NFC website and others – have exposed the false accusations of B’Tselem. For
example, B’Tselem had accused the IDF of killing a Palestinian youth on December
31, 2007, while the truth was that the youth had been killed by Hamas and Fatah
Gavish justified Dr. Landau’s complaint. In his response, he noted
that the IBA decided that any press release arriving at the news desk must
undergo at least an initial veracity check. Dealing more specifically with
B’Tselem, since the group had purveyed false information in the past, the IBA
would undertake an in-depth check before bringing an item from this source to
the public’s attention. It was also stipulated that it is imperative to note in
the IBA’s reports that the item is not fact but rather a citation from a report,
and the source must be given.
B’Tselem’s false accusations, among those
of other radical left-wing organizations, are fodder for Israel’s enemies and
anti-Semites all over the world. They can argue, justifiably, that if the IBA
treats B’Tselem’s reports seriously, then there must be something to their
The path to accusing the IDF of being and immoral, bloodthirsty
occupation army which has no interest in the well-being of the local Arab
population is short.
Has the IBA learned anything? Has it followed its
own guidelines? Clearly not. IMW’s current president, former ambassador Dr. Meir
Rosenne, asked in his May 12 letter to IBA chairman Dr. Amir Gilat: “Did the IBA
undertake an in-depth check of the B’Tselem claims? When the IBA cites news from
this organization, why doesn’t it note that the news comes from an organization
with a clear political agenda? Will the IBA also provide broad coverage to
reports coming from NGO Monitor, Camera, Palestinian Media Watch and Yehonatan
Halevy when they provide in-depth reports about B’Tselem?” Rosenne finishes his
letter asking: “Is it appropriate that the public broadcaster is the one who
gives a public stage to these Israel haters?” In fact, the IBA’s staff has also
on other occasions provided ammunition for the anti-Semites, material which was
unjustified and meant to smear Israel. On April 24, the IBA TV Channel 1 Mabat
Sheni documentary program aired two items which discussed the “price tag” issue
and the “hilltop youth.” The item on the “price tag” was seemingly purchased
from the BBC Panorama program. As one might expect, it was one-sided. The
emerging picture was that the “price tag” mentality reflects all settlers east
of the Green Line. Although the Yesha Council, for example, has time and again
denounced any “price tag” actions, the broadcast item did not even attempt to
include their critical reactions to the “price tag” perpetrators.
second item did not try to balance matters. Eyal Tavor described “the second
generation of settlers” and also dealt with the price tag and hilltop youth
issues. The item misrepresented the settlement leadership, interviewing only the
old-guard leadership. After the fact, we know that there was good reason for
this. The true leadership, people such as Yossi Dagan, Gershon Mesika, Avi Roeh
and others refused to be interviewed, knowing that they could not expect a fair
shake from Tavor.
Moreover, Israel Hayom
journalist Emily Amrussi, who
was also interviewed, claimed her words were taken out of context and edited in
a way which gave the impression that the hilltop youth do not respect Israel’s
It is the job of a news organization to put issues on the
public’s agenda, perhaps especially when they hurt. But they must be thoroughly
researched and the reporting must be fair. Too often, the IBA has done the
opposite, alienating many people within Israel’s society. True reform at the IBA
would mean that it becomes a public service organization. The IBA should replace
its highhanded “we know more than you” ethos with that of the public servant,
who is always attentive to the needs of Israel’s society and
well-being.The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of
Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).
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