Media comment: Ethics? Not for us

Ethics and truth are not a major concern for our media, their collaborators and the regulatory agencies.

By ELI POLLAK
April 26, 2017 22:05
A STREET in Warsaw destroyed during the failed 1944 uprising against Nazi occupiers

A STREET in Warsaw destroyed during the failed 1944 uprising against Nazi occupiers. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

 
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Or Heller is no stranger to our readers. He is a star example of why we believe that TV Channel 10 should be closed down. As we reported on May 3, 2012 in this column, Heller is an expert at presenting fake news. His unethical reports have always been defended by the channel.

In January 2010, he reported on Arab youths demonstrating near Neveh Tzuf. They were contained by the army, which used smoke grenades and other standard methods to break up demonstrations. Heller described the Arabs as non-violent even though an IDF jeep’s mirror was broken, a shed was burned down and the Arabs engaged in forcible shoving. Then some Jewish youths appear on the scene and throw rocks at the Palestinians. The IDF, according to Heller’s report, did nothing to stop them. To show that it is IDF policy to do nothing against Jewish hoodlums, Heller interviewed an IDF lieutenant who “explains” that his job is not to arrest Jews but only Palestinians. Trouble was that the “interview” was old and totally unconnected with the Neveh Tzuf demonstrations.

A year later, he presented another clip, “documenting,” as it were, “how police violently arrest a Palestinian child.” In fact, the video did not show any violence, only the arrest of a youngster the police claim was throwing rocks.

Heller also illegally recorded a telephone conversation in April 2012 between Hagit Rhein, mother of Maj. Benaya Rhein who was killed during the Second Lebanon War, and then Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, after the latter was photographed hitting a demonstrator with the butt of his rifle. Heller did express an apology but no sanctions or even regulatory measures were applied against him or the station.

Habits are very difficult to change and this past week Heller did it again. He thought he had a scoop. On the prime Channel 10 news roundup Friday evening, a week before leadership elections for the Bayit Yehudi party, he showed a clip featuring an Education Ministry book which had pictures of religious people displayed in a positive light, while a secular family was portrayed as empty and egoistic. Heller added: “A racist book, disgusting. Naftali Bennett is not an education minister but a minister for re-education.”

Bennett responded on Facebook, noting that the book had been published in 2008 by then Meretz education minister Yuli Tamir, and that many other pictures in the same book show secular families in a positive light. Channel 10 was not willing to publicize Bennett’s response.

Why? Because it completely undermines the story, which is nothing but fake news. The damage to Bennett’s reputation, however, was done. Is Channel 10 afraid of Bennett and attempting to harm his chances for reelection as leader of Bayit Yehudi? Given the past behavior of Heller and Channel 10, it would not surprise us.

Of course, there is a regulator, in the form of the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR), as well as an ombudsman. But both do nothing. Ethics do not interest them very much, the public pays the price and democracy is undermined.

This lack of interest in media ethics is not limited to the SATR. The same can be said for the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting (CCSB). As also discussed previously in this column, the Knesset issued a tender for a new operator of the Knesset TV channel. The tender was to be decided on by a subcommittee of the CCSB. One member of this committee is Naomi Schchori. It so happens that her husband is Katriel Schchori, CEO of the Israeli Film Fund (IFF) since 1998.

The IFF is the central funding agency for Israeli films. However, to obtain funds from the Culture and Sports Ministry it must match them with outside sources. For example, during 2009-2015, TV Channel 2 Reshet and Keshet concessionaires contributed more than NIS 11 million to the IFF. The RGE company, a co-owner of Channel 10, coughed up during the same period almost NIS 4m.


BUT BOTH channels 10 and 2 have submitted their proposals for operating the Knesset channel. Schchori’s conflict of interest was clear, and she should have recused herself. Moreover, the legal adviser of Channel 10 should have imposed her removal. In fact, one might question how Schchori ever became a member of the CCSB in the first place, and remained one for the past six years given the fact that her husband has business relations with some of the companies the CCSB regulates. The Hot and Yes cable companies have invested millions in movie productions together with the IFF. Was there anyone there who cared?

CEO of Israel’s Media Watch Ziv Maor did, and early in March he sent an urgent letter to the CCSB demanding that Schchori be excluded from the Knesset channel tender committee. As might be expected, the CCSB, for whom ethics are an obstruction rather than a guide, stonewalled. Maor had no choice but to submit an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice. The threat worked and this past Sunday, in an interim response, the Justice Ministry gave notice that Schchori had recused herself from the tender committee.

All is well that ends well? No. Why was it necessary to appeal to the court? Why didn’t the CCSB itself understand the conflict of interest? Why did the Justice Ministry wait for a whole month, during which the tender committee met a number of times, before imposing Schchori’s resignation?

Ethics seems also to be a weak point at the IFF. For Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, the Begin Center in Jerusalem premiered the documentary film Will we remember all of them? The Warsaw Ghetto uprising – the true battle, produced by Yuval Haimovitz-Zusser and Simon Schechter. The film follows the actions of the Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy (ZZW, Polish for Jewish Military Union) underground resistance in the ghetto. Its members came from the Revisionist Betar Youth and their story and bravery had been suppressed for many years by Israel’s establishment in favor of the socialist Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization).

The names of the leaders of the ZOB group can be found commemorated in many cities and towns in Israel. But even the leader of the Betar group, Pavel Frankel, remains unknown in Israel. This sad chapter in the attempt by Israel’s Left to rewrite history became public through the extensive efforts of former Likud defense minister Moshe Arens. The veracity of the story is supported by the diary entries of the infamous German Gen. Jürgen Stroop, who destroyed the ghetto and who specifically mentions the huge damage inflicted by the Betar fighters on German forces.

It took the producers seven years to finish the film, and as they testified, one of the major reasons was that not a single Israeli fund was willing to help, including the IFF.

The bottom line is that ethics and truth are not a major concern for our media, their collaborators and the regulatory agencies.

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

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