That other channel – Israel Educational Television

Media Comment: At present, IETV broadcasts over 200 weekly hours of programming also over Channel 2 as well as HOT’s Channel 23.

By ELI POLLAK
February 29, 2012 22:29
Child watching TV

TV 311. (photo credit: Hemera)

 
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The Israel Educational Television (IETV) channel was established in 1965 as Israel’s original television station. Its first transmission was on March 24, 1966. Its purpose was to provide Israel’s schoolchildren with programs aimed at enriching the standard curriculum taught in classes. It was established and funded in its first year by the Rothschild Family Foundation and was then transferred to the Education Ministry. To this day IETV is funded and operates as an autonomous unit within the ministry. Within two years it was broadcasting nation-wide and sharing its channel with the new public channel, the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1 TV. At present, IETV broadcasts over 200 weekly hours of programming also over Channel 2 as well as HOT’s Channel 23 and the YES company network. Its annual budget is reported to be about NIS 100 million.

The channel continues to supply educational programs. For example, it has a series called Chemistry for Beginners and special programs aimed at teaching the English language. Adapting from the US Muppet Show, IETV produces its own children’s series, Kishkashta, which adapts educational topics using lovable, humorous characters. The station has a new internet site through which one may view many of their programs and materials.

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There is, however, another aspect to the station. In the 1980s, the station moved into broadcasting hard and soft news programs as well as general entertainment and action films. In fact, too often the entertainment programs were geared to adults. The station has broadcast series inundated with sex, violence and drugs, under the guise of programs geared to the adult community. It is only under the guidance of the present Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar that much tighter controls have been enforced, and the noneducational programming has been curtailed severely, especially during daytime hours.

IETV does not differ very much from its commercial and public sister channels. For many years its news programs were dominated by secular journalists. Its “stars” were people such as Dan Margalit, Ben Caspit, Einav Galili, Immanuel Rosen. For example, its banner show, Tik Tikshoret, which is supposedly a media review and criticism program, is in reality a program which largely reflects the journalists’ likes and dislikes and provides them with a convenient stage to present their ideology and biases.

The personal opinion columns in the program are presented by extreme left-wingers Yair Garbozand B. Michael. It has never really provided the Israeli public with serious media criticism which then created real and positive change in the media.

With respect to balance, one may again commend Sa’ar. For the first time since its inception, the panel of the Erev Chadash news program is no longer dominated by the left wing; today the panel includes Erel Segal, Sarah Beck and Idan Queller, the first two identified as being right-of-center. But balance is not perfect at the station. For example, its infotainment program “providing a new order” (Ossim Seder Chadash) is presented by Ben Caspit and Gal Gabbai, both left of center. Jewish values are hard to come by at the station, whose atmosphere is most definitely secular.

IETV’s newly appointed executive director Eldad Koblenz faces some serious obstacles and challenges. Koblenz is a media professional, with an MA in public administration from Harvard University and a BA in psychology from Hebrew University. He directed the “Galgalatz” channel of Army Radio for many years. The station provides popular and avant-garde music interspersed with traffic reports. Only a month ago, the Knesset Economics Committee decided to add IETV to the public access digital TV broadcasting system, making it available freely to all Israelis.

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Koblenz assured the Committee that “he would make sure IETV returned to its original purpose,” meaning education. Koblenz’s comment actually pinpoints the fact that the original concept behind the station has changed radically. Today, perhaps too many of our children have smartphones, and they certainly do not lack access to today’s modern media. There is no need for funding an independent TV channel to provide educational materials. It is thus no surprise that over 40 percent of the programs are imported from abroad and that the central aspect of the station has become infotainment and entertainment.

The differences between IETV and Channel 1 TV are disappearing. Yet in contrast to the Israel Broadcasting Authority which is governed by a public oversight committee and employs a full-time ombudsman, IETV, similarly to the army radio station, it lack any public oversight. The public has no address for comments and complaints.

We do not know how much the station pays its “stars,” even though its funding is public, our tax money. Is there then a real need for an additional NIS 100 million in taxpayer money to fund the station? Wouldn’t it be wiser to incorporate the station within the Israel Broadcasting Authority? Can one make better use of the expensive real estate used by the station in Ramat Aviv? Its equipment?

If Channel 10 is forced by law to broadcast from Jerusalem, shouldn’t we demand that a station which calls itself educational be moved to Jerusalem and reflect much more the Jewish values of the State of Israel? Eldad Koblenz faces some real challenges.

Postscript: We take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. Yaakov Ahimeir, a recipient of the Abramowitz Israel Prize for Media Criticism, which was awarded to him by Israel’s Media Watch in 2007, for being selected as this year’s recipient of the Israel Prize for his contribution to the media. In its announcement, the Israel Prize Committee noted that Ahimeirhas been for the past five decades “one of the pillars of public broadcasting in Israel,” especially pointing out that “in his work, he always managed to separate news from opinion. His style has inspired a generation of reporters.” In short, a paragon of media ethics.

We agree fully with IBA Director-General Yoni Ben-Menachem, who said that Ahimeir’s career as a journalist was one of integrity, maintaining a code of ethics and respect for human dignity.

The writers are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch, www.imw.org.il.

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