The establishment of Channel 10 television in early 2002 was marked by a
shopping spree, for big-name talents as well as the broadcast rights to the
European Football League games of Maccabi Tel Aviv. Among those hired were
Yaakov Eilon, Tal Berman, Manny Pe’er, Rafi Reshef, Yaron London, Avri Gilad,
Meir Einstein, Gideon Reicher, Shai and Dror, Merav Michaeli, Avi Ratzon and
later, Erez Tal and Miki Haimovich.
The outpouring of cash forced Channel
1 and Channel 2 to enter the frenzy and pay ridiculous sums of money for the
so-called “stars.” Rather than focus on content value, all that occurred was the
wasting of a large amount of money to achieve a “splash” at the added cost of
upsetting the budgets of the other two stations. The financial difficulties
began to show up when Channel 10 had to implement its content obligations on
screen, and they haven’t ended.
Not all is the fault of Channel 10. From
the outset, it was supposed to be accessible to all citizens of Israel through
the analog broadcast system, like Channel 2. The government did not stand by its
commitment to the public, so for many years Channel 10 was available only to
those who could afford hooking up by cable or satellite, paying exorbitant fees
to receive the broadcasts.
This didn’t only hurt the consumer. The unfair
advantage of Channels 1 and 2 hurt Channel 10’s ability to maximize profits. It
is only since the inception of the DDT operating system three years ago that
this historical injustice was corrected. Analog TV was eliminated last
year so that for the first time equality was achieved between the reception
possibilities of all three channels.
The establishment of Channel 10 as a
third broadcasting channel was the brainchild of former communications minister
Limor Livnat. She firmly believed, and justly so, that a third channel would
contribute significantly to media pluralism in Israel. Over the years, Channel
10 made a sincere effort to implement this vision, through its news company and
Israel’s Media Watch has found on many occasions
that Channel 10’s news coverage was fairer and more balanced than its
competitors. Indeed, it was Channel 10 that most recently was the first to
report on a left-leaning American millionaire’s funding of this summer’s tent
SADLY THOUGH, the channel was also an unfailing source of junk
programming. Among some of the “outstanding” contributions were The Next
(2007), Beauty and the Geek
(2006), Pick Up
, The Bachelor
(2009- 2010), “The Models”
and more. Its 2.3 Per Week
(2011) show was defined by Second Authority for Radio
and Television’s (SART’s) ombudsman as soft porn. Instead of being a true
alternative to Channel 2’s content, it was at best a pale
Again and again, this was reflected in its viewer percentages.
The losses piled up and investors abandoned the channel one after another. As
early as March 2003, in view of NIS 160 million losses in 2002, the channel’s
chairman, Yossi Maiman, said “I will not pay for Channel 10 by myself” and
demanded other shareholders inject money to prevent a closure of the
Since then, the channel’s economic base remained shaky. Closure
threats came both from the owners and SART. They stemmed not only from the
considerable financial losses, but were also due to non-compliance with
franchise commitments including payment of royalties to the treasury.
closure threats were accompanied by a campaign led by the channel’s senior
executives, assisted by colleagues from other media organizations. The
argument was that closure of the channel would be a black day for Israel’s
democracy, no less. This concerted media pressure convinced the politicians time
and again to provide the kind of financial relief which other companies could
only dream about.
Already in April 2003, the channel received a stay of
proceedings against it which resulted from its financial difficulties and low
income as compared to expectations. Original productions were frozen. Layoffs
included about 15 percent of the channel’s employees. The Second Authority Law
was amended, reducing the channel’s investment and content
Not only financial debts were waived. The channel has
consistently refused to implement its commitment to broadcast from Jerusalem.
Almost a decade since its establishment, the channel still transmits from
Givatayim while “negotiating” not to relocate.
In July 2009, Channel 10’s
CEO announced that cash flow was sufficient for only one more month. He
warned that without change, the channel would cease operation. On July 14, 2009,
a demonstration of the channel’s employees was conducted outside the Knesset to
protest the impending closure. As usual, the threat did not materialize.
The ministries of Finance and Communications reached an agreement with the
channel’s management postponing most of a NIS 35 million debt repayment to
On October 23, 2009, the Second Authority decided to open a new
tender for the channel, ending Channel 10’s franchise. But this decision did not
last. By the following January, SART’s council decided to again extend the
franchise, subject, however, to the channel’s honoring all its debts. But the
channel did not keep its commitments.
In September 2011, Ron Lauder
decided to stop financing the channel. Vilifying publications against him
alleging that he applied improper pressure on Channel 10 to force it to
apologize for a libelous documentary broadcast on the Uvda program against
businessman Sheldon Adelson supposedly were the reason.
This series of
events led to the remarkable decision of the Knesset Economics Committee to
close the channel. But the decision did not last even a week. Chairman
Carmel Shama allowed an appeal of a few opposition MKs, so a new vote was to be
held yesterday. It did not take place, apparently to provide yet another
opportunity for a “compromise.”
THIS LATEST threat to Channel 10’s
existence has led to a high-profile media campaign warning about serious
consequences to Israel’s democracy.
Israel is on the verge of opening the
DTT free broadcasts to numerous new channels. The explosion of Internet-based TV
is creating fundamental changes in viewing habits. Israel’s democracy is being
improved all the time. The closure of a poor channel will not really impact us
all for long. No one denies that Channel 10 has not lived up to its
commitments. But SART is weak and the politicians fearful. It is
precisely this type of example which demeans Israel’s democracy and demonstrates
how lawlessness can dominate us.The writers are respectively chairman
and vice chairman of Israel’s Media Watch. www.imw.org.il.