Israel’s broadcast media is dominated by publicly funded news purveyors. The
news corporations of TV channels 2 and 10 are public organizations whose heads
are appointed by the Second Television and Radio Authority (SART ), which itself
is a state-sponsored body.
Channel 1 TV is part of the publicly funded
Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA).
It is no wonder then that the
Knesset made sure these powerful media groups would be open to public criticism,
through the offices of the ombudsman, or complaints commissioner.
Knesset gave the complaints commissioner quite some power, consisting of three
main ingredients. First, any public complaint must be handled by the ombudsman,
unless it is deemed overly antagonistic or ridiculous. Second, all employees of
the relevant agency must answer the ombudsman’s queries. Third, the commissioner
can instruct the relevant broadcaster to issue an apology or
The two current ombudsmen, David Regev of the SART and
David Markovitch of the IBA, have recently publicized their annual reports for
the year 2012. Both reports are revealing, for they demonstrate once again that
Israeli journalists have not yet internalized fundamental democratic
Regev and Markovitch are journalists turned ombudsmen.
might think both would thus welcome virtually all complaints coming from the
public. Any complaint expresses a viewpoint, whether justified or not.
Complaints are an important feedback channel for the broadcasters. One might
even think they would be actually interested in complaints.
Even if the
powers who run our TV broadcasts presume to know everything better than all of
us, it is the job of the ombudsman to pay attention to the public’s opinion and
We at Israel’s Media Watch very much value the public’s
participation in the media and encourage it to submit comments, both positive
A considerable effort is made to pass on all letters which
come through our website to the relevant complaints authorities. We believe in
free speech and so hardly ever censor letters.
Only when they border on
the vile or illegal will we take action. Otherwise all letters are, with the
author’s permission, published on our website.
But our ombudsmen do not
appreciate this. Markovitch’s predecessor, Elisha Spiegelman, demanded from
Israel’s Media Watch that any complaint coming through the organization’s
website be immediately forwarded to him, irrespective of the
But this angers Markovitch, who although he continued the
practice required by Speigelman had this to say in his annual report about
complaints originating from IMW’s website: “Every complaint of the organization
is considered according to the usual rules, even though at times the complaints
are spiteful, sarcastic or not fit for print, which did not undergo initial
screening. As a result some of the journalists of the Authority, justifiably I
should say, feel that the organization is personally hounding them.”
continues: “The organization organized an Internet campaign against Keren
Neubach which resulted in dozens of complaints. As part of the campaign, the
email addresses of the members of the contents committee [overseeing the radio
programs of the IBA] were publicized so that the surfers would complain against
her and thus aid in removing her from presenting her radio
“Ms. Neubach was a candidate two years ago for the [Israel
Media Watch] title of the ‘Most Aggravating Journalist in Israel.’ This year it
was Oded Shachar who was a candidate for the same questionable
“One of the complainers habitually curses the employees of the
radio and asks the Ombudsman to send his answer also to IMW.”
add that precisely such complaints are censored by us, and Markovitz knows this.
Moreover, he should know that one does not control the public and in any public
endeavor one runs the risk of being exposed to negative elements.
us return to Neubach.
Indeed, we believe that she is not the appropriate
person to present a program on the publicly funded airwaves, since she uses them
for her own purposes. On October 7, Neubach interviewed Dr. Naama Carmi, who, so
she claimed, was severely mistreated by the Carmel hospital.
demands, the hospital was given the right of reply. The hospital submitted its
retort in writing, expecting it would be read on air. But Neubach did not merely
read the response, she ridiculed it, and even continued criticizing it in the
If this is how Ms. Neubach relates to the right of
reply, we would urge anyone being attacked by her to forgo that right.
complaint was duly sent to Markovitz. In his words: “in the hospital’s retort
the name of the claimant [Dr. Carmi] was misspelled twice. In fact, the correct
name of the claimant was not written in the retort and this was the reason for
On October 31, Nili Osherov presented in her corner
on Neubach’s program a satricial lyric sharply criticizing the former chief
rabbi of the IDF, Rabbi Avichai Ronsky. Everyone in the studio
The rabbi was not given the right of reply. Neubach did not
think that it was her job to mitigate the one-sided attack, but rather partook
Markovitz, as usual, found the complaint unjustified: “Ms.
Osherov’s comments are always satirical, one does not have to love them or agree
with them but just so, one must accept them.”
Regev can compete with
Markovitz when it comes to lack of recognition of the public interest. Over a
year ago, TV Channel 10’s Orr Heller illegally recorded a telephone conversation
of Chagit Rhein with IDF Lieutenant-Colonel Shalom Eisner after the latter was
photographed hitting a demonstrator with the butt of his rifle.
complained to Regev.
We received an answer only a few weeks ago. He did
not find the complaint justified, he only let us know the response of Yehudith
Levitt, vice executive director of TV at the SART .
She had this to say:
“The authority found that the issue [Heller report on the Rein-Eisner phone
conversation] was not presented appropriately.”
She did add that she
hoped that there would not be another such incident. Neither Heller nor Channel
10 were told by the ombudsman to apologize and no sanctions or even regulatory
measures were applied.
Regev, a former journalist, knows that after 18
months such issues are buried, and that is indeed what this public servant did.
Instead of using the occasion to assure that such unethical behavior would not
be tolerated, his procrastination and delay gave the opposite result.
we then believe that the office of the public complaints commissioner should be
abolished and public money saved? No, things can be very different, as shown by
Eran Elyakim, the public complaints commissioner of Army Radio. But that is a
topic for a separate article.The authors are respectively vice chairman
and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).