Media Comment: Let’s clean it up

So now we know that there is too much chametz at the army radio station, why don’t we just clean up? Let’s stop listening to them until they get their act together.

By ELI POLLAK
March 28, 2018 21:58
Media screens from Israeli media show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Media screens from Israeli media show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Although she was referring to an incident in which her posterior was groped by an interviewee on live television, what BBC1’s television presenter Helen Skelton said about her reaction could be applied to other ethically problematic facets of the media. She declared, “I felt really awkward... It’s intimidating and you don’t want to be the person who is being difficult... that’s just the culture that television breeds. No one wants to be difficult. You want to bring solutions, not problems.”

In Israel, this is definitely not the case. Our media is urged to bring problems to the fore, but it depends whose problems.

In Skelton’s case, the interviewee would have been immediately hung by the media – provided that he belonged to the “right” camp. Tamar Zandberg, newly elected head of the Meretz Party, was subject to media pressure over her outright lies regarding consultations with right-wing PR adviser Moshe Klughaft for only a short period. Zandberg had denied consulting with him but Klughaft went on record publicly stating that she did.

Zandberg was indeed attacked, and there may still be a legal question, but after 72 hours the issue appears to have died down as far as the media are concerned. Haaretz allowed Alit Karp space to demand she “Go Home!” as she “betrayed voters.” But despite the harsh criticism from Avi Gabbay, head of the Zionist Union, it seems to have ended there.

We are in the midst of the Passover preparations.

Eliminating the chametz from our homes is not only a literal task but a moral one. It implies we should look into ourselves and try to change our habits for the better. For example, our media could try to show more generosity.

Sunday night was a historic evening on the Israeli media scene. A fourth news channel was initiated. TV Channel 20, after years of struggling, finally received the legal go-head to broadcast news. The road was not easy and we reported on the obstacles multiple times in this column. It was only through legislation, aided and supported significantly by Israel’s Media Watch, that the channel received the permit.

One would think that such an event deserved media attention, but on the news of Galei Tzahal or Reshet Bet radio there was no mention. Only the right-wing media – Israel Hayom, Arutz 7, Makor Rishon and a few others – reported on it. The mainstream media kept thunderously silent.

Indeed, the most important comment Arieh Golan gave on Sunday morning was fake news about the Council for Higher Education. Golan claimed that the council had decided to muzzle Israeli college lecturers, preventing them from letting their students know their opinions on current events. The truth is that the council has not decided on anything. It formulated a position paper, which would forbid lecturers from using their lectures as a forum for pressuring students to conform with their personal political beliefs, so as to protect the academic freedom of students to think differently from their teachers.

Golan, had he been a generous, well-meaning person, could have used his radio pulpit to congratulate Channel 20 and note how important it is for Israeli democracy that there exist an additional news channel, one whose point of view differs from all the others, and point out that it will provide sorely needed diversity to our media scene. But Golan only knows how to criticize others. The fact that he usurps the public airwaves for his own political agenda is by now sickening.

So, let us do away with the chametz, for it is our choice to stop listening to Golan. If we want news, not propaganda, there are other, better stations.

Nor is Liat Regev any better. This past Friday on the prime noon news show of Reshet Bet, she had nothing to say about the appointment of John Bolton as the new US national security advisor other than “let’s just see what problems this appointment brings with it.”


Galei Tzahal has been undertaking a special kind of elimination of chametz. It accepted the resignation of journalist Erel Segal. Il’il Schachar, head of news broadcasting, claimed in an interview with Makor Rishon that the reason was Segal’s “insatiable appetite for money” and high salary demands. Unfortunately for her, journalist Kalman Liebskind, Segal’s friend, asked Shimon Alkavetz, the commander of the station, and he denied the allegation, stating that never a word was exchanged with Segal about money. The truth is obviously elsewhere.

Segal is known for his right-wing opinions, of which he makes no secret. In his programs he would attack anything he thought worthy of attacking. His ratings were high, but that was all the more reason to get rid of him – why give a right-winger a position of influence?

Schachar is not new to us. On October 3, 2012, in this column, we reported on Schachar’s blatant unethical behavior.

On November 23, 2011, she provided Galatz’s listeners with a report from Switzerland on a conference of the “Geneva Initiative” which was taking place that week. Her trip was paid for by the Swiss government, a major funder of the Geneva Conference. She knew that a reporter should never receive funding from anyone with interests and especially someone it is her task to report on. But Schachar withheld that information for half a year and divulged it only after being forced to.

Not only was nothing ever done about this, a few months ago she was promoted to heading the news section of Galatz.

So now we know that there is too much chametz at the army radio station, why don’t we just clean up? Let’s stop listening to them until they get their act together.

In a Calcalistech website interview on March 15 on the occasion of their Mind the Teach conference in New York, Randi Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, said, “We need to encourage and support journalism sites that go deep, that are focusing on telling stories, that don’t have clickbait headlines, and that are really doing good investigative journalism.

I think also as consumers we need to be a little more responsible in what we post and what we click on.” That, of course, is advice all journalists should follow from day one in Journalism 101 (that is, if Israel’s media people had actually been required to learn journalism to be able to work).

Zuckerberg’s suggestions are more than just a nice idea. Consider the case of Cambridge Analytica, now in the news for mining Facebook members’ data. It seems that the group was engaged in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance,” a set of techniques that includes rumor, disinformation and fake news. What is now termed “psychographic messaging.” Are certain media elites, whether owners of newspapers, directors of companies or senior-level employees working in media outlets, also, in their own way, engaged in similar activities out of an ideological, political or cultural agendas?

Isn’t this, to borrow a simile, the chametz that media consumers need to burn?

The writers are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).

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